Jazz Recommendation: Benny Golson and Lem Winchester Play "Down Fuzz"

March 17, 2018

Two of the great musicians in modern jazz, saxophonist Benny Golson and vibraphonist Lem Winchester, recorded the album Winchester Special in 1959. Sadly, both Benny Golson and Lem Winchester are under-recognized musicians. 


At the time of this writing, Benny Golson is still alive. He was born in 1929 and by the mid-1950s was on the American jazz scene as a saxophonist. Probably his most famous recording was "Moanin'", on which he played an exciting solo with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. 


Golson is also well-known for his compositions. He composed several jazz standards like "Killer Joe" and "I Remember Clifford". 


Lem Winchester's life was very different, unfortunately. Music did not become his career until the late 1950s, when he began to play vibraphone professionally; he recorded several albums between 1958 and 1961, but died at just thirty-two years of age in the year 1961 when he accidentally shot himself with a revolver.


The Winchester Special album recorded with Benny Golson was one of the best albums Lem Winchester ever created, and the same goes for Golson. The medium-tempo recording of "Down Fuzz" features some Milt Jackson-like improvisation from Winchester, who plays long, continual phrases that logically follow each other in a bebop fashion. He seems to have no problem with playing on the beat.


Winchester sings along with many of his solos, so if you hear an unusual sound in the background during parts of Winchester's solo, this is typical on Winchester recordings.


Tommy Flanagan's piano solo includes some short, neat phrases, but Flanagan seems to struggle a little in places with coming up with logical phrases on the beat and occasionally stumbles over notes.


Benny Golson's solo does not immediately begin with Golson's usual hard-edged tone, but instead more like the tone often heard from Stanley Turrentine. He does not play many notes at the beginning of his solo, but do not be tricked into thinking that he always plays like that. Golson is probably the best jazz musician ever at building up his solos. As he progresses through his solos, Golson always plays more advanced phrases and changes his tone to a much harder sound. Golson's phrases in places sound like that of Michael Brecker, and you could say that Golson's playing was more on the modern side at the time of this recording, but he was still definitely a soul jazz musician.


Lem Winchester plays another solo at the end of the number, and in all, the track is ten minutes in length. We highly recommend listening to this recording and to the whole of Winchester's album with Benny Golson.




"Down Fuzz" with Lem Winchester and Benny Golson - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yb0UqZbbtpY

Winchester Special full album featuring Benny Golson - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXS9jzn2Fbg




Lem Winchester biography and discography - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lem_Winchester

Lem Winchester biography - https://www.allmusic.com/artist/lem-winchester-mn0000197808/biography

Benny Golson biography - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benny_Golson

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