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Eddie Jefferson – The Main Man

Eddie Jefferson (vocals): Charles Sullivan (trumpet): Richie Cole (alto sax): Junior Cook (tenor sax): Hamiet Bluiett (baritone sax): Slide Hampton (trombone): Juliet Lawson (vocals): Harold Mabern (piano): George Duvivier (bass): Billy Hart (drums): Azzendin Weston and Harold White (congas)

Recorded September-October 1977, CI Recording

INNER CITY IC 1033 [32:48]





Night Train

Moody’s Mood for Love

Body and Soul


Benny’s from Heaven


Freedom Jazz Dance

Exactly Like You


Jefferson recorded this album which consists, very largely, of Slide Hampton arrangements between September and October 1977. Less than two years he was shot dead in Detroit. The Main Man was therefore his last studio album and reappears in timely fashion, well-engineered, to remind the inquisitive listener of Jefferson’s continuing importance in the lineage of vocalese.

Though he was quick to credit Leo Watson, one of the impish stars of the pre-war Spirits of Rhythm, Jefferson was certainly the king of Bop vocalese whose commensurately athletic virtuosity was surely undisputed. From the off this session is full of steaming, pressure cooker élan. In Duke Pearson’s Jeannine, with words by Oscar Brown Jr, one hears Richie Cole’s cooking alto sax and Jefferson’s knowingly inflected vocal line with its later unashamed scat toward the end. His best known incarnation as vocalese exponent was on Moody’s Mood for Love a groovy romance that allows him free legato rein to coil and inflect. Janet Lawson, fellow vocalist on this number only, takes the brief ‘piano’ solo elegantly, before Jefferson steams back.

Body and Soul has a Latin makeover, with the two-conga team to the fore, as Jefferson dons the mantle of Coleman Hawkins to fine effect, surging forward or else strategically relaxing the beat. Confirmation marked the end of the first side of the LP, a Charlie Parker composition full of taut rhythm and a good saxophone solo from Cole and from Hampton’s trombone solo.

It wasn’t all showy virtuoso flim-flam. The witty words of Benny’s from Heaven show how Jefferson could have good, old fashioned fun and though he subjects Summertime to a complete authorial rewrite, he does at least infuse some hep cat wit into the proceedings. It’s good to hear Junior Cook make a rare appearance on the set in Freedom Jazz Dance by taking an angular authoritative tenor solo and trumpeter Charles Sullivan’s taut fiery soloing style. The trumpeter returns for the final number, Exactly Like You, occasionally starved of tone playing too high but swinging righteously nonetheless.

Though it only lasts shy of 33 minutes this is the Last Will and Testament of Eddie Jefferson and makes for invigorating and creative listening.

Jonathan Woolf

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