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Music Review: Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis – Cookbook, Vol. 1

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I don't think I normally have a smile on my face when I write a music review but in this case I do, because both the album and the artist are unusually named, and besides that, the music itself is pretty light-hearted.

Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, who was also called "Jaws" by friends (as if "Lockjaw" wasn't a strange enough nickname) was pretty much self-taught on the tenor sax, learning with an instrument and instruction book he bought from a pawnshop in pre-war Harlem. He'd decided to become a musician, he later said, because, "They drank, they smoked, they got all the broads… and they didn't have to get up in the morning."

Within eight months he'd become good enough to get a job in the Uptown House, one of the early New York jazz strongholds and a place that later helped popularize bebop (although Lockjaw's playing was always more rooted in swing with a touch of blues).

That began a lifetime of solid contributions that included extended service in the big bands of such notables as Cootie Williams, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie, with whom he had a number of stints. These included collaborative albums with Basie himself and others with band members such as Johnny Griffin and Paul Gonsalves.

Davis also had a lot of success as the leader of various groups of his own, and that's what we're looking at with this new album, Cookbook, Vol. 1, which is a re-mastering of an original album recorded in 1958, and is now being re-issued under the Prestige division of Concord Music.

In the late fifties, he was doing a lot of recording and performing with Shirley Scott, whose Hammond organ play has been compared to Jimmy Smith's, and Jerome Richardson, a wizard on the flute. (The jazz establishment was slow to warm to organ and flute, but this era marked the beginning of a popularity that would last.)

As with most good albums, the producers have put together a variety of appealing songs that starts with the first cut, a bluesy-sounding tune appropriately titled, "Have Horn, Will Blow". Among the seven cuts are two different versions of a very nice ballad called "But Beautiful", and a great song titled "Three Deuces" which features a tenor sax duel between Davis and Richardson (who was a fine sax player in addition to his flute talents) interspersed and refereed by Shirley on the organ.

For a sample, I'm including a standard as I often do. It's just a quirk of mine, but sometimes I think the old songs are best when it comes to comparing a particular artist to his peers. Listen to the good job turned in by Lockjaw on "Avalon" and form your own opinion, but as for me, I think this album fills the bill.

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