John Benson Brooks – Folk Jazz U.S.A. & Alabama Concerto


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John Benson Brooks (1917-1999) had been on the scene for a long time before his 1956 album Folk Jazz, U.S.A. came out on the Vik label. From the early to mid-40’s he composed and wrote arrangements for the swing bands of Eddie De Lange, Les Brown, Tommy Dorsey and for the fine, but little-appreciated group of Randy Brooks.

With Folk Jazz U.S.A. he created a surprise success, proving that a mainly Anglo-American body of folk material could be revitalized in a modern jazz idiom with Afro-American roots. The way Brooks integrated soloists —Zoot Sims on alto, Al Cohn on baritone, and Nick Travis on trumpet— and backgrounds is consistently impressive. Also noticeable are the pianistic contributions of Brooks, and the invaluable assistance of guitarist Barry Galbraith, especially in the slow tempos.

Brooks’ second jazz recording, Alabama Concerto, is an extended work recorded in 1958, based on folk themes collected in Alabama by Harold Courlander and blended with jazz virtuosity and classical composition. Brooks used them as a concerto, in which written themes, written solos, and improvised solos alternate, executed by the warm approach of two story-telling soloists such as Cannonball Adderley on alto and Art Farmer on trumpet, and by the excellent rhythm section.

These two memorable albums of remarkable musicianship —in both the collective and individual sense— are part of Brooks’ legacy and contribution to the evolution of jazz.

Track Listing:
1. The New Saints - 2:12   2. Venezuela - 4:28   3. Black Is the Color - 3:08   4. Betsy - 4:38   5. Randall My Son - 2:50   6. Turtle Dove - 3:09   7. Shenandoah - 3:06   8. Joe’s Old Folks - 0:58   9. Saro Jane - 2:41   10. Scarlet Town - 2:16   11. Wayfarin’ Stranger - 4:36   12. Darling Corey - 2:20   - First Movement: 13. The Henry Jones Story - 4:49   14. Some Lady’s Green, Green Rocky Breasts (Nature!) - 3:17   15. Job’s Red Wagon - 3:07   - Second Movement: 16. Trampin’ - 2:32   17. The Loop - 5:18   18. Trampin’ / The Loop - 2:23   - Third Movement: 19. Little John Shoes - 3:09   20. Milord’s Calling - 5:06   - Fourth Movement: 21. Blues for Christmas - 3:56   22. Rufus Playboy - 3:33   23. Grandma’s Coffin - 5:05

Tracks #1-12, from the album “Folk Jazz, U.S.A.” (VIK LX 1083)
Tracks #13-16, from the album “Alabama Concerto” (Riverside RLP-1123)


Personnel on "Folk Jazz, U.S.A.":
Nick Travis, trumpet; Zoot Sims, tenor sax; Al Cohn, baritone sax; Barry Galbraith, guitar; Buddy Jones, bass; Osie Johnson, drums; John Benson Brooks, piano (on #2,8,9).
Recorded at Webster Hall, New York, November 1 (#2,3,6,9), 5 (#5,8,11,12) and 6 (# 1,4,7,10), 1956

Personnel on "Alabama Concerto":
Art Farmer, trumpet; Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, alto sax; Barry Galbraith, guitar; Milt Hinton, bass; John Benson Brooks, piano (on 3rd movement only).
Recorded at Reeves Sound Studios, New York City, July 28 & 31, and August 25, 1958