The Troy Street Observer

April 1965: Jaki Byard, Live at Lennie’s

Jaki Byard Live LP
Jaki Byard Quartet Live Vol. 1

On the night of April 15-16, 1965, Jaki Byard, Joe Farrell, George Tucker, and Alan Dawson were recorded Live at Lennie’s.

Jaki Byard was on a roll in the spring of 1965, when he opened on April 12 for a week at Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike in West Peabody. His early sixties work with Eric Dolphy and Charles Mingus made him one to watch, and his own trio and quartet recordings on Prestige showed him at his inventive and eclectic best. He was at Lennie’s to record a live set for Prestige with a formidable quartet.

On drums and vibes was Alan Dawson, who had a history with Byard going back to the late 1940s in Boston. But there was recent history, too. In 1963-64, Dawson and Byard had recorded a series of quartet recordings with Booker Ervin and Richard Davis, also for Prestige. Jaki and Alan knew each other well. When Dawson was in Boston, he was the house drummer at Lennie’s.

George Tucker was a conservatory-trained bassist who may well have worked with Byard in Earl Bostic’s group in the late 1940s. In the late 1950s and 1960s, Tucker recorded with Stanley Turrentine and Horace Parlan on Blue Note, and Shirley Scott and Willis Jackson on yes, Prestige. Tucker’s star was rising, but tragically, about six months after this date, he died from a cerebral hemorrhage.

The saxophonist was Joe Farrell (Firrantello), who had worked with Byard in Maynard Ferguson’s big band in 1960-61, and with Mingus but not during Byard’s tenure. His early sixties career is a bit hazy, but after this 1965 date he became far more prominent.

The recording session took place after three getting-acquainted days, on April 15, not finishing until four in the morning. Lennie Sogoloff always points out, for the benefit of basketball fans, that this was also the night that Boston Celtic (and club regular) John Havlicek Stole the Ball.

The resulting recordings were widely acknowledged as excellent, and still are today, most recently by Jason Moran. Volume 1 of Live at Lennie’s (Prestige 7419) came out in 1966 and garnered a four-star review in Down Beat. Volume 2 (Prestige 7477) was released in 1967, and also received four stars. Both LPs are prized by Byard collectors. They were reissued on CD by Fantasy/Prestige (24121) but that, too, is out of print. One trio track was issued on Byard’s On the Spot (Prestige 7524) in 1967. Finally in 2003, all remaining material was issued on CD by Fantasy/Prestige as The Last From Lennie’s (11029), and that, at least, is still available on CD or MP3.

The recordings are not available online, but here is video of Jaki Byard live in 1965, with Dawson and Reggie Workman. Enjoy a genius in action.

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