Gene Ammons: Hittin' the Jug


Hittin' the Jug


Gene Ammons (tenor sax)


Boss Tenor (Prestige 8102-2)

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Gene Ammons (tenor sax), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), Art Taylor (drums).

Composed by Gene Ammons


Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, June 16, 1960


Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

There's nothing better than hearing Gene Ammons play a slow ballad, except perhaps for a slow blues like "Hittin' the Jug." Tommy Flanagan's lilting, if not particularly earthy, piano intro does not prepare you for Ammons's entrance. It's a deceptively simple blues line repeated several times, but the way Ammons slurs the drawn-out second note makes it all his own from the start. Then the tenorman's distinctive vibrato and big sound sweep you away. His long testifying solo combines both bluster and soft sighs, with short exclamations that gradually evolve into more extended outbursts. Bassist Doug Watkins somehow manages to follow Ammons with his own insinuating statement before the leader returns to definitively reiterate the theme.

This track is from the first of no less than 22 recordings Ammons was to make between 1960 and 1962. From 1958 to 1960, and then again from 1962 to 1969, Ammons spent most of his time in prison on drug convictions. The ardency of his blues performances in the early '60s no doubt reflects this rough period in his life. King Pleasure's lyrics for "Hittin' the Jug" (which he renamed "Swan Blues") may have said it best: "Goodbye, you know I hate to leave you baby, but I'm leavin' anyway."

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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  • 1 joe deluca // Jan 22, 2009 at 07:16 AM
    gene was the best, im not from his era, but love his stuff. joe deluca