RECORD REVIEWS - DOWN THROUGH THE DECADES

Submitted by johnnycase on Sat, 02/13/2021 - 11:35am

Reviews of vinyl records, cassette tapes, CDs and CDRs issued by John Case from 1969 to 2020. The reviews appear in no particular order, chronological or otherwise.

 

Five Reviews of JAZZ POTPOURRI:

 

JAZZ POPOURRI by John & Jerry Case - Priority Records PRS-406.

Nuages / Empathy / Amends / Waltz for Debby / Excursion / High Stakes / Soul Searchin'.

JERRY CASE, 7-string guitar; MAURICE ANDERSON, pedal steel guitar, JOHN CASE, piano; JIM PERKINS, acoustic bass; BILL WALKER, drums.

Note: Nuages, Waltz for Debby and Sould Searchin' are unacconpanied guitar performaces by Jerry Case. All selections recorded June 22, 1977 at A T P Studios, Fort Worth, Texas.

 

Preliminary Review in Jazz Forum Magazine - Issue 55, International Edition 1978

"This album, with its unassuming title, is a real surprise.. The seven solid, swinging numbers are played with verve and skill. Although little known to the world at large, the Case Brothers and their crew sound like a vital  addition to the contemporary mainstream. The inclusion of Django Reinhardt's Nuages suggests where guitarist Jerry Case is coming from. Anderson's work on the pedal steel guitar, an instrument usually associated with country music, makes one wonder why few people have ever explored its jazz possibilities before."

 

Review by Carl Brauer in Jazz Forum Magazine - Issue 58, International Edition 1978

"To a large extent, musician-owned record labels are dominated by the more avant-garde styles. But there are exceptions. One of these is Priority Records, operated by John & Jerry Case out of Ft. Worth, Texas. What the Case brothers play is a relaxed, laid-back yet very swinging brand of jazz with a pinch of country music for flavoring. This, their latest recording, serves up a variety of settings and moods in a jam session-type atmosphere, hence the title.

Particularly memorable are Nuages, Waltz for Debby and Soul Searchin', three solo guitar performances by Jerry Case. He brings to each piece first-rate technique coupled with a keen harmonic sense such that his approach has an original stamp to it. At a time when the jazz world seems blessed with many highly talented guitarists covering the whole spectrum of musical styles, it would be unfortunate if a musician as singularly talented as Jerry Case was overlooked.

The remaining four cuts are originals featuring the complete quintet, with each number allowing everyone ample space to show his chops. Empathy might have profited from some judicious editing as it carries on longer than its substance warrants. Just the opposite problem hampers High Stakes. Following a short Bill Walker drum solo, the piece abruptly ends leaving the listener hanging. One other minor quibble: With nearly fifty minutes of music on the two sides, the recording level has been lowered to the extent that both the bass and drums are not nearly as up front as the piano and guitars."

 

​Review by Bob Rusch in Cadence Magazine - May 1978,  page 28

"The Case Brothers have a new release "Jazz Potpourri" (PRS-406) on their Priority label. I'm not sure when this was recorded. I'm not sure since my copy has only a front cover design and no back liners or information whatsoever - curious? This is the John and Jerry Case's seventh (Cadence Sept '76, p. 11 & 13) and to my ears, their best. The record opens very strongly with Django's "Nuages", a beautiful solo statement by Jerry Case's guitar. Two originals follow, "Empathy" and "Amends" and bring together the whole group with John Case's piano, Maurice Anderson's steel guitar, Jim Perkin's bass and Bill Walker's drums. "Empathy" is a lengthy piece which swings along at a brisk walking tempo, featuring fine solos by the Cases, Anderson and Perkins. It is interesting to hear John Case's work quite adventurous within the bop figures. Side One closes with Bill Evans' "Waltz for Debby" again a solo for Jerry's guitar, a great show of of lyric beauty and sense of thought and structure. Jerry Case is certainly one of the best bop guitarists around and he continues to prove it on side two which opens in strong fashion with "Excursion" one of three originals that make up the side. As fine as Jerry's playing is, one should not overlook the very fine and unusual jazz work of Maurice Anderson's steel guitar. The steel guitar is an instrument usually found in country or Hawaiian music. Anderson makes it feel equally at home in jazz. "Jazz Potpourri" closes with "Soul Searchin'", the third Jerry Case solo effort. He is a bitch of a guitarist and this is a bitch of a record - guitarists will especially dig this."

 

Capsule Review by Randy Savicky from on the record: in JAZZ Magazine - Spring Issue 1979,  page 67

"surprisingly sympathetic acoustic vignettes with an unusual duet out front - 7-string and steel guitars."

 

Capsule review in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine - September 1978. 

Note: Featured artist listed is the pianist. 

"Some nice, laid-back mainstream jazz with Case on piano in a group that also includes guitar and steel guitar as well as bass and drums. Guitarist Jerry Case's three unacconpanied selections are the high point of the album."

 

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Tom Bingham reviews the first four LPs issued by John Case -  "LITTLE LABELS" article (re: "Jazz in the South" and "Dawn Records") published 1975 in the WIUS TIPSHEET, a periodical for Indiana State University's public broadcast station.

"JAZZ IN THE SOUTH - When you hear about Southern music, it's natural to think of rock 'n' roll, blues, country, bluegrass. Jazz, on the other hand, ia considered a more cosmopolitan style of expression. Nevertheless, jazz was originally a Southern creation, the fusion of black folk and popular music (blues, ragtime, etc.) with white popular and march structures.

Though historians now downplay the "born in New Orleans" theory,(Louisville and St. Louis appear to be key cities in jazz' development as well), it is equally true that New Orleans style, both authentic (King Oliver, Freddie Keppard) and diluted (Original Dixieland Jazz Band) was by far the dominant form in the music's early history. Through Louis Armstrong's expansion of the soloist's role, New Orleans jazz was to set the stage, directly or indirectly, for virtually all forms of the music to follow.

By the 20's, though, jazz had moved out of the South and into the city ghettos. For the last 50 years and more, the key centers have been (at various times) in the East (New York, Philadelphia), midwest (Chicago, Kansas City), and West (Los Angeles). However, major contributors continued to move to these centers from the South, often adding freer, bluesier touches to the music of more self-conscious Northern bands. Many of the greatest swing era musicians were born in the South. Though space limitations preclude an adequate delineation of their talents, a Southern swing "Who's Who" would include the names Cat Anderson, Herschel Evans, Freddy green, Jimmy Hamilton, Lionel Hampton, Fletcher Henderson, Budd Johnson, Gus Johnson, Frankie Newton, Hot Lips Page, Gene Ramey, Buddy Tate, Dickie Wells, Cootie Williams, Teddy Wilson, and many more.

Much of the transition from swing to bop was foreshadowed by Lester Young and Charlie Christian. Bop itself has had several significant Southern pioneers and popularizers, including Dizzy Gillespie, himself, plus Fats Navarro, Kenny Dorham, James Moody, and the Adderley Brothers. Even the vapid "cool" 50's, jazz' darkest hours, were enlivened by the contributions of Red Callender, Gerald Wilson, Jimmy Giuffre, and guitarists Johnny Smith, Mundell Lowe, and Tal Farlow.

The 60's were significant for many reasons, not the least of which was the influx of many Southern saxophonists who woodshedded in R&B bands, and kept the R&B tone and emotion in their music - Texas Ornette Coleman, Pharoah Sanders from Little Rock, and Charles Lloyd, who played with B.B. King and Bobby Bland in Memphis. (Archie Shepp and John Coltrane were also born in the South, but grew up in the North.) Even the urban spaceman, Sun Ra, comes from Alabama, while two of his key soloists, Joh Gilmore and Marshall Allen are from Mississippi and Kentucky, respectively.

The tragedy of this extremely incomplete roll-call is that every one of these brilliant musicians had to go up North to establish his reputation. Except for the leftover traditionalists in New Orleans and a couple of enclaves in Texas, the jazz scene in today's South is either nonexistant or so commercially blanched to meet the tastes of the more "sophisticated" dilettante as to be musically worthless.Once in a while, a Ronnie Kole will record for an independent Southern label, but even these musicians play watered-down pop-jazz. Southern jazzmen must either move up North (or West) or provide their own breaks by setting up private record companies to try to disseminate their work.

DAWN RECORDS - Not many have tried the latter route, but two who did are Texan pianist John Case and his guitarist brother Jerry. To date, the Cases have issued four albums on as many labels (same address, though) and in a variety of styles.

The most atypical of the four is a John Case album called Vibra-Dream Currents (on the RPC custom label, SLP-TWO), a set of unaccompanied vibes solos (plus a token piano track). The side-long "Vibra-Sleep Currents" begins as a collection of arpeggios and scales, but develops into a lively, cosmic dance of complex phrases, rhythms, overtones and glissandos. Side two is rather redundant, offering more of the same in six short tracks.

More representative is John and Jerry Case's Pleasant Dreams (Dawn DSLP-401). John Case has evolved a recognizable piano style, with full left-hand chords, a melodic right hand which lags slightly behind the beat, and a firm touch which lets you know he means every note. Jerry Case is a first-rate jazz guitarist with a taut yet clean sound, original solo ideas, and a unique usage chords. He owes as much to Grant Green as he does to Johnny Smith. Side one has two tracks, the restrained minor-key "Strange Dream" and the more boppish "Summons". Side two is a five-cut trio session (with Jerry switching to bass), with John Case at his very best.

Without question, the most "Southern" of the Case-produced albums is the Maurice Anderson-Tom Morrell Sextet Session (on the Mail-Order label, SLP-1). Anderson and Morrell are true rarities - jazz steel guitarists. Western Swing bands have shown in the past that the steel guitar is an excellent improvisational instrument, with its varied tone colors, unique methods of chording, swooping notes, and the like. Anderson seems more at home with the subtly swinging mainstream jazz of the four tracks (all standards) than Morrell, but both bring a refreshing country-influenced dimension to jazz.

The best of the Case albums is John and Jerry's Contrasts In Jazz (Priority PRS-402), which combines the styles of the above two albums. "Fire", which consumes side one, is from the 1970 Pleasant Dreams session, with a long, continuously inventive piano solo by John, and a cooker of a guitar solo by Jerry.  Maurice Anderson triumphantly returns for side two's "Full Moon" (recorded in '74), which demonstrates even greater maturity in both John and Jerry's work.

These records raise a very important question. How many other talented, creative, yet totally unknown jazz musicians are hidden away in the South, unable to record and distribute their own music? Perhaps the folk-derived forms don't tell the whole story of Southern music after all."

Note: Tom Bingham ends this article with info pertaining to the purchase of albums by John & Jerry Case.

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CONTRASTS IN JAZZ by John & Jerry Case Quartet / Quintet - Priority Records PRS-402 Issued 1974

Side 1: "Fire" featuring JOHN CASE, piano; JERRY CASE, guitar; CHARLES SCOTT, bass; WAYLAND SMAJSTRLA, drums. Recorded August 22, 1970.

Side 2:"Full Moon" featuring JOHN CASE, piano; JERRY CASE, guitar, MAURICE ANDERSON, pedal steel guitar; JIM PERKINS, electric bass; BILL MINER, drums. Recorded February 5, 1974.

 

Capsule Review of Contrasts in Jazz in Guitar Player Magazine - October 1974.

Note: Featured artists listed as Jerry Case and Maurice Anderson.

"Jerry's clean and tasty jazz guitar is supplemented on side two by Maurice Anderson's amazing pedal steel for a quintet cut that's hard to match."

 

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Bob Rusch, publisher of Cadence Magazine  (Review of Jazz and Blues), is introduced to the music of John & Jerry Case.

Speaking Their Piece... a recurring column in Cadence Magazine devoted to independent record releases of creative improvised music. This installment appeared in the September 1976 issue.

"In the same way that Columbus claimed to have "discovered" America, we at Cadence have the feeling of "discovering" the music of JOHN & JERRY CASE.  Discovery is rather presumptuous since one can hardly discover something that was already there, and like most "discoveries" it is more of a final awareness, the background and history of which we know very little about. What is evident is that John & Jerry Case have been recording their music out of Fort Worth, Texas since 1970, and up to this time have produced six consistently good jazz albums, five on Priority Records and one on Dawn Records. To be more exact, they are: "Sextet Sessions" (PRS-401) from 1972; "Contrasts in Jazz" (PRS-402) from 1970 and 1974; "Serenade" (PRS-403) from 1974; "Eclipse" (PRS-404) from 1975; "Two Moods" (PRS-406) from 1975 and "Pleasant Dreams" (DSLP) from 1970 and '71.  John Case is a pianist in the Bud Powell, Wynton Kelly tradition; On PRS-403...he plays bass. Jerry Case is a guitarist in a lineage that is rooted in Christian to Montgomery, all of their music is characterized by an easy, floating rhythm, and a purity of jazz voicing that, with the exception of an odd release here and there along with the Concord Records guitar masterpieces, is not often heard in today's fusion market. Aside from the straight ahead, very satisfying music which they present, there is also present on four of the albums, a rather new sound for Jazz - the use of steel guitar. Tom Morrell does most of the steel guitar work on these albums and it's highly distinctive and complimentary in a Jazz setting. The steel guitar is present as part of a sextet recording on the "Eclipse" date which produced "Birderic". "Birderic" is a John Case composition loosely based on "Scrapple From the Apple" whick "expresses some of my (John Case) feelings about Charlie Parker and Eric Dolphy...something like "Scrapple" would have sounded if Eric Dolphy had written it." John Westfall, a strong, decisive slide trombone player also is present on this session (and on PRS-405). The end result, "Birderic" sounds very much like a Lennie Tristano composition produced and arranged by Jaki Byard during one of his imaginative brainstorms, bold and assertive music and less confusing and disjointed than this commentary."   ---  Bob Rusch, 1976

 

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Noted percussionist and educator SAM ULANO includes albums by John & Jerry Case in the record review section of his 1970's-era periodical, The Guitar Teacher.

Capsule Review of Serenade by John & Jerry Case Quartet:

Serenade / In The Air / In The East / Back Again / Cold Spell / In The  Air (Part Two)

JERRY CASE, 7-string guitar; TOM MORRELL, pedal steel guitar; JOHN CASE, bass; Don Sowell, drums. Recorded September 1974.

"The John & Jerry Case Quartet on Priority Records  No. PRS-403. On this album Jerry Case plays a 7-string guitar. This is another solid album on the PRIORITY LABEL. Other were mentioned in issue No. 3 of THE GUITAR TEACHER. This group comes out of Fort Worth, Texas...They are commers (sic)  and you'll be hearing a lot about John and Jerry Case QUARTET."

Sam Ulano - The Guitar Teacher, Spring - April 1975 

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Capsule Review by Don Menn in Guitar Player Magazine - August 1975:  Serenade by John & Jerry Case Quartet (Priority Records PRS-403)

​"Veterans of the self-produced album (this is their fourth venture), these two brothers continue making mellow jazz in a quartet that features John on bass, Jerry on 7-string guitar, Tom Morrell on steel guitar, and Don Sowell on drums. Jerry's cool approach to the guitar is nicely matched by Morrell's understated steel work. Nothing really razzle-dazzle, but certainly acceptable music for after-hours fans who need to unwind."

 

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