Gene Ammons


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Gene Ammons, son of Albert, was a warm, approachable tenor saxophonist who existed at the fulcrum of several genres, and styles within genres. He swung, bopped, rocked, rolled, preached, and dished out sensuous songs of love and heartbreak. These are his first recordings as a leader. "Red Top," a portrait of Gene's wife Mildred (who was also T-Bone Walker's niece), was to be the inspiration for a milestone vocalese rendition recorded six years later by King Pleasure and Betty Carter, who sang words based upon Gail Brockman's trumpet solo. Here on the original track, Ammons quotes "Alice Blue Gown" at the beginning of his solo. This would become "Alice Rosetta" in King Pleasure's translation. Even if there weren't any vocals for comparison, "Red Top" is a masterpiece and "Idaho" the perfect flip side. These are object lessons in bop groove logic. Repeated exposure to jazz of this sort will permanently alter your brain in all of the hippest ways. "Concentration" does everything modern jazz was supposed to do. It's intricate, fresh and inventive. We're lucky to have contrasting versions from two different ensembles. "Blowing Red's Bop" should have been called "Blowing Red's Top," as it is clearly a remake of "Red Top." Twelve sides from October and December 1947 paint a picture of Chicago's jazz scene in rapid transition. "Shermanski" contains a wild ensemble vamp behind the sax that might rile your blood. "Jeet Jet" is a ferocious bop line that includes a swift succession of nine hammer strokes. The magnificently titled "Blowing the Family Jewels" rolls at about 65 mph. Earl Coleman sings like Billy Eckstine on "Hold That Money." Contrary to what the discography says, Coleman is not heard on "Dues in Blues," a sultry cooker that walks its way into "Night Train" territory. The session from February 1949 is a good example of bebop you could dance to if you felt like it. "Brother Jug's Sermon" has a spoken intro and handclaps behind a "preaching" tenor sax. Two sentimental vocals, one by pianist Christine Chatman and the other by Mary F. Graham, are included in the package to place Ammons' music in context for the year 1949. But the instrumentals are the gravy. "Stuffy," a percolator by Coleman Hawkins, comes across nice and solid. Ammons' handling of "Once in a While" is gorgeous, honest, personable and very, very cool.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:05
2 3:11
3 2:49
4 2:25
5 2:32
7 2:26
8 2:46
9 2:21
10 2:37
11 3:00
12 3:07
13 2:51
14 2:27
15 2:56
16 2:50
17 2:24
18 2:59
19 3:03
21 3:01
23 3:01
24 3:04
25 3:22
blue highlight denotes track pick