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This superb album contains a splendid series of sessions by the Bobby Timmons Trio, recorded in the early 1960s. A Pianist strongly associated with the soul jazz style that he helped initiate and of which he was one of the major exponents, Timmons became known for his work with Art Blakey’s celebrated Jazz Messengers and later with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, before forming his own trio.

Included here are the complete contents of the four following albums, Sweet and Soulful Sounds, Born To Be Blue, A Little Barefoot Soul and Chung-King.

Like so many other cases in the history of jazz, Bobby Timmons’ story had a sad ending. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 19, 1935, Robert Henry “Bobby” Timmons began studying piano at the age of six. In 1954, when he was 19-years old, he moved to New York, where he played bop with Kenny Dorham’s Jazz Prophets (with whom he made his recording debut in a live set from May 1956), Chet Baker (1956-57), Sonny Stitt (1957), and Maynard Ferguson (1957-58). While a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1958-59), with whom he toured Europe, he became well known for his composition “Moanin’”, a funky, gospel-oriented tune.

From 1959 to 1960 Timmons worked with Cannonball Adderley and recorded two further soul-jazz compositions that became hits, “This Here” (also called “Dis Here”) and “Dat Dere”. Apart from making numerous albums as a sideman with Art Blakey, Cannonball Adderley, and others, during his short career, Timmons also recorded some 15 albums under his own name. Timmons and bassist Sam Jones (1924-1981) had already worked and recorded together as members of the Kenny Dorham group in 1956 and the Cannonball Adderley Quintet in 1959. Jones and Timmons would continue to record together frequently. The bassist would also be present on Timmons’ very last recording session.

The 1962 dates are atypical for the pianist. Long thought of only as a funky piano player in the style that Ramsey Lewis would later make commercially successful, Timmons could also play prettily, as he does on this ballad-heavy set. There’s a little funk however, and the up-tempo “Another Live One” sounds like a potential Cannonball Adderley hit (Timmons, Sam Jones, and drummer Roy McCurdy were all once and future Adderley accompanists). But for the most part, Timmons keeps his cool, showing a very strong Bud Powell influence throughout. Actually, the two solo tracks, “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” and a meditative “God Bless the Child,” sound as if Timmons had been listening to Bill Evans’ solo records, as the latter in particular has the same rhythmically loose, melodically free style. The highlights are the three standards, Richard Rodgers’ “The Sweetest Sounds,” a relaxed and swinging take on Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” and a version of Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern’s “Why Was I Born?” that turns it from a show tune into a despondent blues.

The June 18, 1964 sessions nearly didn’t take place at all. A quintet session suddenly turned into a trio with bassist Sam Jones and Ray Lucas, the latter a last minute substitution on drums. Although Timmons’ jazz immortality was assured with his earlier hit “Moanin’,” most of the originals sound as if they were written shortly beforehand and were still evolving. The standout among them is easily “A Little Barefoot Soul,” a piece which gets underway without the leader at all. But its catchy gospel flavor eventually gives way to a driving, bluesy hard bop setting. Timmons’ solo interpretation of the spiritual “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” is another gem.

The later 1964 session matches Timmons with bassist Keter Betts and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath and draws from a much wider range of material. The opener, “Chun-King,” was co-written by Betts with Charlie Byrd and features an extensive bass solo. Timmons contributed two compositions, the gospelinflected “Gettin’ It Togetha’” (with the call and response played by the pianist alone) and the happy, strutting, and very oddly titled blues “Walking Death.” Rounding out the date are some very familiar works, including the bossa nova “, “O Grande Amor” and the standards “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

Timmons rejoined Blakey briefly in 1960, but thereafter his career declined rapidly due to alcoholism, possibly brought on by artistic frustration. Timmons was a sophisticated and versatile pianist, but he became stereotyped and inhibited by the success of his simple compositions. His last commercial albums were as a member of the Dexter Gordon Quartet in 1969 –titled L.T.D. and XXL. (A single version of “Bags’ Groove” with Sonny Redd on tenor sax, Sam Jones on bass, and Mickey Rocker on drums was recorded, according to discographies, in Norwalk on November 6, 1971, but it remains unissued; this would be his very last known recording session.) Timmons would die from cirrhosis in New York, on March 1, 1974. He was only 38-years old.

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