Louis Hayes / Junior Cook Quintet ‘At Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall / Hamburg 1976’ 2LP/2CD (Jazzline) 4/5

This is a reissue from a March 1976 gig at Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall in Hamburg – from a series of live recordings. I guess you would call this hard bop but where that came from is openly flagged by the intro of the first number, ‘All the Things You Are’ being a quote from the head of Charlie Parker’s 1947 version of ‘Bird of Paradise’ which is based on the changes of ‘All The Things’ and it pops up again in the coda.

Jointly billed as leaders are saxophonist Junior Cook and drummer Louis Hayes and the band is completed by Woody Shaw on trumpet, Stafford James on bass and Ronnie Matthews on piano. To these ears, live gigs are great live but don’t always stand up to repeated listening on record. But this is an exception, although the players stretch out (‘All the Things’ is nearly 23 minutes alone) the playing is tight and strong – it’s clear the band were well used to playing together.

Next up is a ballad, ‘When Sunny Gets Blue’ which features Junior Cook making a strong statement from the outset using the full range of the tenor and takes the lead for half the running length of the tune. This song was the subject of a plagiarism case in the 80s (nothing to do with these players) which set a precedent for fair use of quoted music in another context.

‘Moontrane’ is a Woody Shaw tune which first surfaced on Larry Young’s classic ‘Unity’ recording for Blue Note – memorable not only for the tunes playing but for one of the very best of the iconic cover designs by Reid Miles. As you might expect Shaw features heavily on this fast-paced version.

It’s back to a ballad with Thelonious Monk’s ‘Pannonica’ being treated with due reverence by Cook in his initial statement which again stretches out impressively until Matthews gets a chance to show.

‘Ichi-Ban’ became the title track when the band recorded more abbreviated versions of some of these tunes in a studio session in May 1976, back in New York for the Dutch Timeless label run by Wim Wigt, who also organised European jazz tours including the one for the Hayes/Cook quintet. It’s another quick based tune kicked off this time by Shaw underpinned by choppy chords from Matthews. Shaw later took over the co-leader role when Cook stepped back. This tune is by Matthews and the way the lead is rotated points to a certain shared democracy in the band’s voices.

‘Moment to Moment’ is a slower builder led first by Cook which then switches into a funkier feel which becomes the background for Cook to stretch further out. Matthews is also prominent with another lyrical and suitably funky solo.

‘Four For Nothing’ brings the gig to a close – apparently the band could have carried on but Harriet Maué, the bartender, called time. Matthews again excels and James contributes a swinging bass solo. Co-leader Hayes provides strong drumming throughout but seems keen to promote the overall music and sound – but here he does give us a cracking solo in the middle of this final track.

Only seven tracks but a running time of nigh on two hours, no wonder it’s a double album! The crowd loved it from the bits of response you can hear. For a live recording, it was taped for the German station NDR, of that time the quality is pretty good. Overall a very good insight into a hard-working band.

Brian Homer