Part Two: Review of Video

JW Solo with Quincy Jones 1960 Part 2

by Tom Varner.  Thanks, TV!!

Julius Watkins (1921-1977) with Quincy Jones Big Band: Thoughts, Part II

Alright, friends, I am back. Setting the stage for this wonderful band: In 1960, Quincy took his big band to Brussels and Paris for a run of the revised Harold Arlen Free and Easy “blues opera musical,” with the musicians of his big band in costume on stage. Even with good reviews, it had big financial problems, and Quincy found himself stranded and broke in Paris with his band. He quickly booked some concerts, and the band toured in Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, and elsewhere. There is quite a lot about this time in Quincy’s autobiography, Q; The Autobiography of Quincy Jones. This video is from a performance of the band in Switzerland.

Several of the players were Quincy’s friends from Seattle’s Garfield High School: Floyd Standifer (trumpet), Patty Bown (piano) and Buddy Catlett (bass.)   Many years later (from around 2006 to 2012) I met and occasionally played with Buddy Catlett (1933-2014), who had moved back to Seattle, and we were able to talk about Julius, who was Buddy’s roommate on that tour, and how much we loved him. (Buddy also worked with Louis Armstrong and many other greats.)

Other greats from this band included Phil Woods, Jerome Richardson, Benny Bailey, Budd Johnson, and Melba Liston.

The piece that Julius was featured on was Everybody’s Blues, written and arranged by Count Basie veteran sax player Ernie Wilkins. (17 years later I was fortunate to be able to play this arrangement with Ernie at the New England Conservatory as an incoming “jazz major” transfer student.)

There are now several links up on You Tube. Just search for “Quincy Jones, Live in Switzerland.” Go to Everybody’s Blues. Better yet, buy the “Jazz Icons: Quincy Jones” DVD.

It is a medium-tempo blues that starts in concert B flat. Looks like JW is playing a Conn 6-D. After a beautiful muted wah-wah trombone solo by Duke Ellington veteran Quentin Jackson, Julius comes in, and he plays 10 choruses (perhaps the longest JW solo on video). The rhythm section is soft, stays at a simmer, and very supportive of JW. I have mapped out the choruses as follows:

Ch. 1 – In on bar 5. Mysterious high C right away. Only 2 notes.

Ch. 2 – Mystery and high blasts, back to mystery.

Ch. 3 – Now into jazz and bebop language, more in the groove.

Ch. 4 – A mix of mystery and bebop.

Ch. 5 – Goes down to low range (low F) and back up again, with leaps.

Ch. 6 – A new strong motif (F-C-G), and very high range (high G!). “Call and response” dynamic variation in his phrases. Especially in the last two bars of this chorus.

Ch. 7 – Very strong staccato blasts in opening phrases, and shakes and slurs. Beautiful working of the blues changes towards end of chorus—one could call it “descending chromatic blues arpeggiation.” (!)

Ch. 8 – Double-tonguing a single C as an opening motivic statement. One note phrase, and a double-high C!

Ch. 9 – The band is now in with backgrounds, JW interacts with the saxes with his own blues “moans,” and finishes the chorus with more bebop language phrases. He knows his solo is almost over.

Ch. 10 – Last chorus. The band modulates up a forth, so we are suddenly in a blues in concert E flat. Again, JW interacts with and “answers” the band’s phrases, and plays blues phrases going up to a double-high B flat! He finishes with more bebop phrases right up to the exact moment the band comes to the “shout chorus” and he is out.

This is truly Julius Watkins at his best, and this is really a great moment in mid-20th century African-American music. (Or ALL music, period.)

Julius would have been around 39 years old. Quincy would have been around 27!

The You Tube version I just watched was this one, and JW’s solo is at 53:00: It is also interesting to compare other versions, such as Quincy Live in Paris, Live in Germany, etc. JW also solos on the minor blues Big Red as well. When they got back to NYC, they later recorded in the studio – here is the studio version: — it is slower, and JW only gets about four choruses.

Enjoy it, friends, and please add any thoughts or corrections! And, THANK YOU Julius Watkins.



About John Clark

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