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Jug

Jazz - Released January 1, 1961 | Concord Records, Inc.

Distinctions Golden Oldies
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2006 | Prestige

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The great tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons was of the generation of swing-era players that easily adapted to bop. But though he was a modernist, Ammons maintained that breathy, old-school romantic approach to the tenor. Boss Tenor, a quintet session from 1960, is one of Ammons' very best albums. Ray Barretto's congas subtly add a bit of Latin spice, but otherwise this is a collection of standards rendered with a gorgeous late-night bluesy feel. Accompaniment by Tommy Flanagan, one of the best mainstream pianists ever, certainly doesn't hurt, either. A gem. ~ Mark Keresman
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1961 | Verve Records

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1994 | Concord Records, Inc.

The executives at Prestige must have been felt ecstatic when they heard Gene Ammons first play after his release from a very severe seven-year jail sentence. The great tenor proved to still be in his prime, his huge sound was unchanged and he was hungry to make new music. This CD, which completely reissues the first two LPs Ammons cut after his return (The Boss Is Back! and Brother Jug!) rewards repeated listenings. The first date (in an acoustic quintet with pianist Junior Mance) hints at his earlier bop-based music while the numbers from the following day (with organist Sonny Phillips) find Ammons playing over a couple of boogaloo vamps very much of the period. Actually it is his ballad statements (particularly "Here's That Rainy Day," "Feeling Good" and even "Didn't We") that really make this CD memorable, although on "He's a Real Gone Guy" Ammons shows that he had not forgotten how to jam the blues either. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1977 | Prestige

This single CD reissues the two-LP set of the same name. Included are two sessions originally cut for Prestige's subsidiary Moodsville (Nice an' Cool and The Soulful Mood of Gene Ammons), which are purposely relaxed and strictly at ballad tempos. Fortunately, Ammons (who had a distinctive, huge tone) was long a master at interpreting ballads, and although these performances do not quite reach the heights of his greatest recordings, the lyrical music is quite enjoyable. Accompanied by either Richard Wyands or Patti Bown on piano, Doug Watkins or George Duvivier on bass, and J.C. Heard or Ed Shaughnessy on drums, Ammons is tasteful and creative in a subtle way throughout these successful dates. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1991 | Concord Records, Inc.

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2003 | Prestige

During his late period -- after his release from prison in 1969 up until the time of his death from cancer in 1974 -- Gene "Jug" Ammons did the sort of things that one associates with Grover Washington, Jr. He used electric bass and electric keyboards, he incorporated funk rhythms, and he put an instrumental spin on the soul and pop hits of the day. This 2003 release focuses on two of the post-incarceration albums that Ammons recorded in 1972: Big Bad Jug and Got My Own, both of which find the tenor titan moving in a somewhat commercial direction. Like Washington, he usually did it tastefully -- and this 73-minute CD, although not perfect, is rewarding more often than not. Jug is a little too MOR on Neil Diamond's "Play Me," but he fares much better on gritty, blues-drenched, expressive performances of the Temptations' "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," the Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself," and four classics from Billie Holiday's repertoire: "Strange Fruit," "Lady Sings the Blues," "Fine and Mellow," and "God Bless the Child." Not surprisingly, myopic jazz purists hated Got My Own and Big Bad Jug on principle -- especially Big Bad Jug -- and felt that Ammons had sold his soul to Beelzebub by embracing Motown, funk, and pop songs. But then, Ammons was always funky to begin with. Jug was never an ultra-cerebral, abstract sort of player -- he was accessible and groove-minded in the late '40s and early '50s -- and it makes sense that someone who craved Louis Jordan during the Harry Truman years would record a Temptations gem in 1972. Fine and Mellow isn't among Ammons' essential CDs, but for the most part, it paints an attractive picture of the saxophonist's post-incarceration period. ~ Alex Henderson
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1988 | Fantasy Records

A noble attempt at harnessing a vast and varied career, OJC's hits roundup of Gene Ammons' '60s sides provides a balanced sampling of the tenor great's indelible ballad work and the funkier soul-jazz he also favored during the decade; and, in between, there's a whole lot of top-notch swing and seasoned soloing. From a fine outing with B-3 organ man Jack McDuff ("Twistin' the Jug") to one of his best ballads ("My Foolish Heart"), the mix provides a very enjoyable way to plot your Ammons buying spree. Plus, there's a gem ("Canadian Sunset") from what is arguably Jug's best outing, Boss Tenor. ~ Stephen Cook
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1972 | Concord Records, Inc.

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1962 | Verve

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1964 | Fantasy Records

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1987 | Concord Records, Inc.

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2002 | Concord Records, Inc.

For those who love Gene "Jug" Ammons' playing, there are various reasons to be frustrated. First, the tenor titan was only 49 when he died of cancer on August 6, 1974 -- in an ideal world, a player that masterful would have had as long a life as Benny Carter. And second, there is the fact that Ammons was imprisoned for heroin use from 1962-1969; the harsh sentence that he received makes an excellent case for combating drug abuse with treatment rather than incarceration. But here's the good news: When Ammons wasn't behind bars, he recorded frequently and his work was -- despite his drug problems -- amazingly consistent. If Fantasy decided to put together a 20-CD Ammons box set, there would be a wealth of five-star material to choose from. This 68-minute CD, which Fantasy assembled in 2002, focuses on different periods of Ammons' career and draws on three Prestige LPs: Night Lights, Sock!, and Velvet Soul. The oldest tracks ("Count Your Blessings" and a soulful version of the Italian ballad "Cara Mia") are from 1954, while the most recent ("Calypso Blues," "Night Lights," and the Eden Ahbez standard "Nature Boy") are from 1970. Meanwhile, the early '60s are nicely represented by, among other things, four Mal Waldron pieces and a heartfelt performance of Mel Tormé's "A Stranger in Town," which, like "Cara Mia," reminds listeners how expressive a ballad player Ammons could be. Thankfully, Jug wasn't the sort of musician who had periods of good recordings followed by periods of bad recordings -- again, Ammons' work was quite consistent when he wasn't locked up on drug charges. This rewarding CD demonstrates that Jug had as much going for him in the early '70s as he did in the early '60s and in 1954. ~ Alex Henderson
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1998 | Fantasy Records

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1991 | Fantasy Records

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1975 | Concord Records, Inc.

It is ironic that on tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons' final recording date, the last song he performed was the standard "Goodbye." That emotional rendition is the high point of this session, a septet date with cornetist Nat Adderley, altoist Gary Bartz, pianist Kenny Drew, bassist Sam Jones, drummer Louis Hayes, and Ray Barretto on congas. In contrast to the somewhat commercial studio albums he had recorded during the past couple of years, this set was much more freewheeling, for Ammons was clearly happy to perform the material (which included "It Don't Mean a Thing," "Alone Again (Naturally)," and "Jeannine") without any tight arrangements, in the spirit of his Prestige jam sessions of the 1950s. It's a fine ending to a colorful career. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2005 | Blue Note Records

World - Released August 18, 2016 | Klangheim Rec

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1989 | Concord Records, Inc.

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1969 | Prestige