For many years, the field of Rhythm and Blues has played the part of a musical farm system to the field of Jazz. Hungry, young musicians who find it tough getting jobs in jazz will go on the road with an R&B group for bread and experience. Fans who have followed both mediums may remember the times when Benny Golson was with Earl Bostic, Tadd Dameron with Bullmoose Jackson or Johnny Griffin and Mathew Gee in the old Joe Morris outfit. Recently, the idioms have become more closely knit. The advent of "Soul Jazz" has provided the opportunity for men like Willis Jackson, Jimmy Forrest and Clifford Scott to record and play in person more of a jazz repertoire. To most listeners, it is no longer important what you call the music as long as there is a good groove to it.
Clifford Scott is the featured saxophonist here and as soon as your needle touches the record, it will become evident that he is not a routine honker. Clifford has paid his share of R&B dues with Roy Brown, Roy Milton and Bill Doggett but this has not dimmed his fire and enthusiasm for jazz improvisations. Although this is the first album under his leadership, Clifford has been active on the recording scene for some time. His most famous work was with Bill Doggett on "Honky Tonk" which he also helped compose. The Doggett aggregation played in an R&B groove most of the time but Doggett's band was not one easily categorized as they have produced several fine jazz albums. Clifford joined Doggett in 1956 and stayed five years. He speaks warmly of him, referring to him as "a fine and very flexible leader."
Clifford was born June 21, 1928 in San Antonio, Texas. His first professional job was in his hometown, at the Keyhole Club in 1946. He made the big jump to Lionel Hampton's band in 1948 and was with Hamp until 1950. After spells with Brown and Milton, he rejoined Hamp in 1953. Clifford was in good company as that edition of the band contained Clifford Brown, Quincy Jones, Jimmy Cleveland and other great soloists. He left in 1954 to study arranging at the Hartnet School of Music in New York. He freelanced extensively around New York until joining Doggett.
Clifford arrived in Los Angeles in 1961 and since that time has established a solid reputation in the recording studios and in the trio of drummer Wayne Robinson. He is in great demand for rhythm and blues work as well as jazz and frequently uses the pseudonym Joe Splink.
Clifford's cohorts on the date are familiar to Pacific Jazz listeners. Brother McCann and the LTD are on display here along with the brilliant guitarist, Joe Pass. Drummer Paul Humphrey is the new addition to Les' group. He was born in Detroit, 27 years ago and has worked with Lee Konitz, Gene Ammons and the Montgomery Brothers. His solid stickwork and nutty sense of humor are all the equipment necessary to blend with the trio.
Samba de Bamba opens side one. It is Les' tune (as are four others in the album) and Clifford and the boys answer the question what is this thing called Bossa Nova. Clifford is on tenor here and is followed by mssrs. Pass and McCann (who evidently likes chittlins with his samba).
The lilting Over And Over is next and features Clifford slashing alto. After Joe Pass plays his provocative piece, Clifford returns for some effective double-timing this time on tenor. Les sounds a little like Oscar Peterson here and Herbie Lewis has a brief bit before the tune fades.
As Rosie And Ellen Dance is another McCann composition. It has a 3/4 feel and has a beautiful Joe Pass solo. Joe is probably the most modern guitar player around and seems to be a shoo-in for the Down Beat New Star award for 1963.
Cross Talk has Clifford on alto getting nasty. Joe incorporates some full chording into the first part of his solo and Paul Humphrey adds some tamborine work as the tune fades out.
Why Don't You Do Right is a tune usually associated with Peggy Lee. It is taken at a head-shaking tempo here and Clifford is appropriately gutty. Guitar and piano both have some space before Clifford returns.
Just Tomorrow is a beautiful ballad. It is Clifford's tune and he is apporpriately soulful. Clifford has named Johnny Hodges and Don Byas as his first inspirations and his work has traces of both. Charlie Parker was also quite influential and Clifford has also expressed admiration for the work of Coltrane and other modernists.
Out Front is the title tune and everyone gets a chance to stretch. The excellent work of the rhythm section should be noted here. The McCann trio has taken a number of lumps from critics but the blues is its meat and the rapport in this album should cause some people to turn around.
One element that perhaps is not transferable to this record is the spirit of just plain fun which dominates any gathering between these five men. Les McCann is the ringleader and his irreverent wit sets the tone of the meetings. Joe Pass assumes the role of the straight man and the other men join in at will. The natural tension which is built up in the studio is largely alleviated and good, relaxed jazz is the end product. For McCann this is old stuff and for Clifford Scott musicwise and funwise--it just fits.
-- Bob Porter