Tuesday, April 14, 2020

This Week In Jazz: Tyrone Washington

We have all listened to thousands of hours of music in our lifetimes. Yet the music we have yet to explore boggles the mind. Think about the records we've seen over and over again, either while flipping through bins at record stores or on the inner sleeves of the records we own. "Ramatam" on Atlantic? I never heard a note, but I must have touched it 300 times. This is a long list for all of us, yet somehow it still amazes me when something comes along that is completely new, unseen and unheard, especially when it is over 50 years old.

This brings me to Tyrone Washington and his one record for Blue Note in 1967.

I like to scroll through Blue Note's Instagram account just to see all of those stunning and iconic Francis Wolff album covers, and of course, to read about new releases. Last week, I saw the cover of "Natural Essence" for the first time. That might not seem like a big deal, but back when I had my shop, Blue Note had released series after series of titles from deep into their catalogue. I stocked them all and learned about artists that had never crossed my radar before---Dizzy Reece, Jutta Hipp, Walter Davis---major talents overshadowed by the obvious giants like Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins and Lee Morgan. There were hundreds of titles, but no Tyrone Washington. I sent a Spotify link to two friends, one a jazz dealer and the other a jazz aficinado. Neither recognized the name or the cover.

"Natural Essence" has suddenly become one of my very favorite records. The band behind Washington is a top notch lineup of young lions which include Kenny Barron, Reggie Workman, Joe Chambers and one of my favorite jazz trumpeters, the secret weapon who is Woody Shaw. The music on "Natural Essence," six Washington originals composed when he was only 23, is something special. It feels very 1967, opening up with a slinky soul groove reminiscent of many other Blue Note records of the time, by the likes of Lou Donaldson, Lee Morgan or Hank Mobley. But it is Washington's aggressive playing that is the standout. It's a combination of swing and skronk that is not usually found commingling.

Tyrone Washington was one and done with Blue Note. Two more low profile records followed in the mid-70's and that seems to be it. But to create something as powerful as "Natural Essence," a record that could stand up to any of the great jazz works of the 60's and have it disappear with only a brief early 90's reissue in Japan, is simply unjust.

I hope you dig this as much as I do. And I wonder just how many more major label releases have failed to cross our paths in any form, either in person at a shop, while shopping online, scrolling through Instagram or visiting the many great blogs of the internet.

I cannot wait to find the next gem.


allen vella said...

This was a great discovery Sal, glad you sent it...also opened up my Blue Note curiosity, and the Instagram site is prompting me to further discoveries. There's so much I haven't heard so it's great to be able to discover new old music. Last night brought a really cool discovery, check out Grant Green Feelin' The Spirit, great renditions of gospel/spiritual songs that we all know...but like you never imagined. (The Big Beat, Art Blakey spinning for the second day in a row right now!, wow what a record)

Sal Nunziato said...

Thanks Allen, but I beat ya to it with the Grant Green. :)

allen vella said...

Ahh..I've been remiss in my checking in...I see I missed that... but a cool discovery either way.

Anonymous said...

very interesting, tho Tyrone seems to be mixed far forward of the rest of ensemble, which seems odd for a jazz record. if I heard it walking into a store, I would think it's Joe Henderson.

SOTD is my favorite Rhodes song (and album). I suppose the riff is pretty basic, but doesn't it beat Long Cool Woman to the stores by a few months?