Quincy Jones: Killer Joe
Quincy Jones and his Orchestra
Walking in Space (A&M CDA0801)
Eric Gale (electric guitar); Freddie Hubbard, Lloyd Michaels, Dick Williams, Marvin Stamm (trumpet); Jimmy Cleveland, Jay Jay Johnson, Alan Raph, Tony Studd (trombone); Joel Kaye, Roland Kirk, Hubert Laws, Jerome Richardson (reeds) Paul Griffin (piano).
Benny Golson (composer).
Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, June 18-19, 1969
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
According to an interview I saw with Quincy maybe 6 or 7 years ago, “Killer Joe” was the last straight-ahead tune that actually made the BillboardTop 100 Singles Chart in 1969. Quincy also said that this particular arrangement was specifically written with Ray Brown’s walking style in mind. As you can hear on the original recording, it’s just bass in your face the whole way through. It really is a lesson in everything that I think encompasses the golden standard in modern bass playing—how you can get the most harmonic, linear creativity from just two chords. It just goes back and forth from C-VII to B-flat-VII, and Ray Brown is milking these two chords to death. It’s swinging real hard. His sound... Well, actually (and I tread lightly when I say this), I was never a big fan of the bass sound on Rudy Van Gelder’s recordings once he started using the DI, once he started using the pickup on acoustic basses, which he started doing it around that time, ‘69-‘70. Somehow, Ron Carter was probably the only bass player who was able to get a decent sound from the DI in Rudy’s studio. But save for what I feel was sort of a muffled sound... You listen to Ray Brown on any other recording, then listen to him on Walking in Space. It almost sounds like there’s a towel over the bass, so you can’t really hear the clarity. But if you can get past that and just hear all of the magnificent notes and the force with which Ray Brown is driving the band, to me that’s a huge reason why that probably was the last straight-ahead jazz tune in the Billboard Top 100. You can’t help but dance when you listen to that. In a Downbeat piece a few months ago, I mentioned how the acoustic bass has this all-encompassing, encircling quality, like a big arm just surrounding the band. Ray really does that on “Killer Joe.” Definitely one of my favorites.
Reviewer: Christian McBride