REVIEW: Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis And His Musical Cookbook

I don’t think I normally have a smile on my face when I write a music review but in this case I do, because both the album and the artist are unusually named, and besides that, the music itself is pretty light-hearted.

Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, who was also called “Jaws” by friends (as if “Lockjaw” wasn’t a strange enough nickname) was pretty much self-taught on the tenor sax, learning with an instrument and instruction book he bought from a pawnshop in pre-war Harlem. He’d decided to become a musician, he later said, because, “They drank, they smoked, they got all the broads…and they didn’t have to get up in the morning.”

Within eight months he’d become good enough to get a job in the Uptown House, one of the early New York jazz strongholds and a place that later helped popularize bebop (although Lockjaw’s playing was always more rooted in swing with a touch of blues). That began a lifetime of solid contributions that included extended service in the big bands of such notables as Cootie Williams, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie, with whom he had a number of stints. These included collaborative albums with Basie himself and others with band members such as Johnny Griffin and Paul Gonsalves.

Davis also had a lot of success as the leader of various groups of his own, and that’s what we’re looking at with this new album, Cookbook, Vol. 1, which is a re-mastering of an original album recorded in 1958, and is now being re-issued under the Prestige division of Concord Music.

In the late fifties, he was doing a lot of recording and performing with Shirley Scott, whose Hammond organ play has been compared to Jimmy Smith’s, and Jerome Richardson, a wizard on the flute. (The jazz establishment was slow to warm to organ and flute, but this era marked the beginning of a popularity that would last.)

As with most good albums, the producers have put together a variety of appealing songs that starts with the first cut, a bluesy-sounding tune appropriately titled, “Have Horn, Will Blow”. Among the seven cuts are two different versions of a very nice ballad called “But Beautiful”, and a great song titled “Three Deuces” which features a tenor sax duel between Davis and Richardson (who was a fine sax player in addition to his flute talents) interspersed and refereed by Shirley on the organ.

For a sample, I’m including a standard as I often do. It’s just a quirk of mine, but sometimes I think the old songs are best when it comes to comparing a particular artist to his peers. Listen to the good job turned in by Lockjaw on “Avalon” and form your own opinion, but as for me, I think this album fills the bill.

Buy the album

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