Organist Sam Lazar from St. Louis is a mysterious figure about whom not very much is known. His (very small) fame among jazz fans is based on the fact that guitarist Grant Green’s first recordings were done in groups led by Lazar.
Lazar, who was born around 1933, vanished from the scene at sometime in the early sixties and nobody seems to really know what became of him (and I am 99 percent sure that the – unsourced – stories about his later life in Lazar’s Wikipedia entry are bogus (so I do not link to that entry) – or are they?
Anyway, since I think it’s worth to listen to Lazar also if Green is not part of the proceedings, I decided to make an illustrated discography of Sam Lazar’s recorded works. Some of the entrys are linked to audio files or youtube videos – just in case you want to listen to Lazar while reading about his works.
Again Uptown Records have done the world a great favor by releasing rare jazz recordings of great historical importance with this CD:
“Grant Green / The Holy Barbarian, St. Louis, 1959”, features a concert by the Sam Lazar Quartet with Grant Green, Sam Lazar, tenor saxophonist Bob Graf and Chauncey Williams on drums at the Holy Barbarian Coffee House on December 25th 1959 and February 20 1960.
This is one of the first recordings with Grant Green – playing with Sam Lazar’s integrated group with saxophonist Bob Graf and drummer Chauncey Williams. It was recorded at an interesting club with a mixed clientele the short history of which is recounted (in detail as always with Uptown) in the accompanying booklet.
Do not get me wrong, this is a great recording of a classical organ-tenor-guitar-band. Green is playing fine here and the overall sound of the source material is marvellous. But in a way the repertoire they play and the way it is played is not as special as the music Lazar made on his first LP for Argo, “Space Flight”, also with Grant Green.
On the “Space Flight” – a must for organ freaks – Lazar in my ears plays different compared to the Uptown CD and also compared to his later two LPs for Argo after which he disappeared (one still does not know, what became of him). On the Space Flight LP (there are excerpts on youtube) the whole band plays rhythmically much more aggressive and the rhythms seem to me more staccato-like (I guess that might the wrong term, I am no musician). The pieces are much shorter here than on the live session from Uptown records and than on Lazar ‘s later LPs. But although that may sound like the “Space Flight” LP is more commercially oriented than Lazar’s other two this is not true. It’s the Lazar LP I am leaving at home when I am DJing, because the rhythm of the tracks, that sound like they could be dance floor killers at first listening, turn out too be just a bit to complicated when it’s time to move your legs!
Already before Lazar’s first LP was recorded in spring 1960 he had recorded a 45 rpm in late 1959 for small St. Louis label Cawthron. I had already presented this beauty in another posting, but here it is again:
The liner notes to the Grant Green CD on Uptown mention Lazar’s Cawthron 45 rpm, but by reading them you do not get the impression, that Grant Green was a part of this recordings. But he was – as can clearly be heard. It would have been nice if Uptown could have added Lazars “Space Flight Parts I and II” from the Cawthron 45rpm to their “Holy Barbarian” CD – but I guess the master tape would be very hard to find, or not even exist anymore.
After I had put up above video on youtube some folks asked me to also make available Part II of the “Space Flight” 45rpm. So here is “Space Flight Part II”. This tune was rerecorded for the Argo LP , receiving a new title, “Big Willie”.
I was not really in the mood to fumble around with the video camera so you just get this fabulous blasting sound (all known copies have this totally overdriven sound)
As some of the visitors to this blog already know I am always doing a little research on Cawthron, C&C and Allegro, all very small labels owned by a traveling meat inspector named Dunlap J. Cawthron. I have made a discography of the Cawthron catalogue and to gain your interest (if you like most obscure labels) I am finishing this blog with some pics of recently acquired records that are connected with Dunlap J. Cawthron. More info about them in the Cawthron, C&C and Allegro discography.