As far as recording activity is concerned, 1961 was a productive year for me. Trips to New Orleans and Chicago resulted in several Riverside albums (the "Living Legends" series) and I produced a number of Prestige albums at Rudy Van Gelder's New Jersey studio. In New York, there were sessions with Meade Lux Lewis, Ida Cox and Elmer Snowden, and I ventured out on my own with a one-man production company that yielded four albums, but no income. Had I made money on this, I would have been long gone by now, but the music is still there and possibly to be found on the Fontana or Black Lion labels, but only if you rummage deep enough.
I started that venture with a Howard McGhee date. He was rehabilitating himself at the time and had been off the scene for far too long, but—as you will hear on the sample that now is but a click away, Howard still had it going. He was beginning to get work, and was with Duke Ellington at the time when I contacted him, but great as that looks on a resume, it was possible to play with Duke and never have the spotlight hit you. Many promoters were wary of hiring serious drug addicts, even if they were recovering, and Howard sometimes found himself regarded as a great player gone good, a sideman with name recognition. He liked my suggestion that we should change that image, so my solo walk was off to a good start. Howard knew exactly what he wanted to do and who he wanted involved, so he got together a stellar group. I will, from time to time, post selections from this and other of my own sessions, because I know that these recordings—although actually issued—are not easy to find. Unfortunately, I could not afford a studio whose sound was commensurate with these performances, but Stea-Phillips—located off the lobby of the Wellington Hotel on Seventh Avenue—did a decent job. Here is Howard's own composition, "Sharp Edge," which he had originally titled "Mag-San." Let me know what you think.
For a larger view of this post's heading, please click on it.