Jazz has always been about a party - "Having fun in spite of conditions," as saxophonist Johnny Griffin once said. It's originally and essentially street music, music that comes from the bars, the clubs, the corners where people hang out and share the news, "wash away the dust of everyday life," (Art Blakey said that.). In that social space, during the social time, a lot of magic can happen. And of course, from time to time, people in that frame of mind will have a drink. Nick's Bump is our drink of choice.
In the classic tradition of the fifties and sixties, when groups like Benny Golson's Jazztet and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers would stay on the road perfecting their music before recording it, the Nick's Bump Band road tested this music through two years of touring in Europe, Japan and the United States. Nick's Bump, then, is a metaphor as well as a drink. It stands for having a good time, playing music, in the words of Horace Silver, that makes you wanna "pat your feet, pop your fingers, and shake...whatever else you want to shake."
The songs, too, come from the halcyon days of groove jazz -- Lee Morgan's "Zambia", Eddie Harris' "Mean Greens" and Sonny Clark's "Blue Minor" to mention a few -- and are brought up to date through the production and recording technology of the great Hector Coulon. "Coulon understands the past and is hands on with the future," says Sidran, commenting on Coulon's drum-centric mixes and his skillful blending of the wisdom of Art Blakey and Dizzy Gillespie, captured via audio excerpts from Sidran's own enormous stockpile of jazz interviews. These interviews, collected over ten years, from 1981 through 1990, when Sidran was the host of National Public Radio's Jazz Alive! And Sidran on Record, will one day be released as a series of "Talking Jazz" CDs, conversations with many jazz greats, but they make their public debut here onNick's Bump.
Nick's Bump finds Ben Sidran returning to his roots on the Wurlitzer electric piano and Hammond B-3 organ, instruments he helped popularize during the early seventies with his recordings for the Blue Thumb and Arista labels, classic sides that were heard on jazz and rock stations across the country. Over the years, several of those early sides have been sampled by groups like Cash Money Clique and rappers like France's MC Solar.
Also featured in the band are saxophonist Bob Rockwell, 2003 recipient of Denmark's coveted Ben Webster award, bassist Billy Peterson, drummer Leo Sidran, and guitarist Louka Patenaude.
"The feeling we captured in two intense days of recording is exactly what we were after," says the elder Sidran. "If there is a lesson in this experience -- and why not? -- it is that, in the words of Art Blakey, the purpose of this music is to 'wash away the dust of everyday life.'" To that end, Sidran shares the secret of Nick's Bump on an extended video included with the CD, which shows how to make the exotic cocktail of the same name. "Everywhere we play, people love to enjoy themselves and we love to make them happy. Finally, we put it on record."
From the album notes:
Nick's Bump is a cocktail, a vibe, and an excuse for a party. The recipe for the drink is below. If you have a computer, insert the CD and learn even more about how to "get bumped." The vibe? That's in the music, classics from Eddie Harris, Sonny Clark, Lee Morgan and more, all played studio live with no alterations, except for what the great Hector Coulon brought to the party. The party? That's in the band, a group of musical brothers who have traveled thousands of miles to bring you the good news. Art Blakey says at the top of "Black Jack," "its got to be love, and its got to be right!" This music is all about enjoying yourself, and, as Dizzy Gillespie tells us (in "Listen Here,") "you can work that!" We're working. Bottoms Up!
"Countless bands today owe a debt of gratitude to '60s soul-jazz pioneers such as Eddie Harris and Lee Morgan, who attracted a wider audience to jazz by marrying mainstream improvisations to infectious R&B rhythms. Nick's Bump capures the essence of that classic groove-jazz better than most recent releases. / "A collection of soul-jazz covers, two Sidran originals, and one tune by saxophonist Bob Rockwell, Nick's Bump packs an intoxicating punch - which is appropriate since it's named for a creamy cocktail concocted at the Opus Lounge in Madison, Wisconsin. A two-year worldwide tour created a tight rapport between the keyboardist and his quartet and resulted in this live studio recording. / "Although best known for his singing, Sidran sticks to Hammond organ and Wurlitzer electric piano here. The tunes reflect the leader's trademark cool-swing sensibility but possess funky contemporary touches. Sidran's drum-playing son Leo and bassist Billy Peterson punch out grooves, while guitarist Louka Patenaude compliments the rhythms. Sidran and Rockwell (tenor sax and flute) sine the brightest, particularly on the relaxed groover "Little Sherry" and Lee Morgan's "Zambia". / "On two of the CD's more interesting tracks, Sidran incorporates spoken snippets from his interviews with Art Blakey and Dizzy Gillespie. The late jazz icons speak so soulfully around the band's slinky tempos that they could have sounded hip reciting phonebook entries. The CD also includes a playful video in which a bartender mixes a Nick's Bump while Sidran extols he drinks virtues. / "Nick's Bump isn't the most artful or cutting-edge jazz release of 2004, but few recordings are more fun." -Ed Kopp, Jazziz
"Although Sidran is known for his singing, he favors an instrumental setting on Nick's Bump; this time, Sidran uses the Hammond organ and the electric piano to get his points across -- and he savors the funkier side of post-swing jazz whether he is embracing Sonny Clark's "Blue Minor," Donald Byrd's "Black Jack," or three Eddie Harris compositions ("Listen Here," "Mean Greens," and "Cryin' Blues"). If Nick's Bump sounds dated, it is dated in the positive sense -- dated as in remembering how rewarding a particular era was and being faithful to the spirit of that era. Nick's Bump recalls a time when soul-jazz players realized that jazz was losing more and more listeners to R&B and rock -- and that the only way to win over those Marvin Gaye, Rolling Stones, and James Brown fans was to groove and be accessible. Soul-jazz, unfortunately, didn't restore the mass appeal that jazz enjoyed during the Great Depression and World War II, but it was a noble effort -- one that Sidran happily remembers on Nick's Bump [...] an infectious, enjoyably funky demonstration of what he can do in an instrumental setting. - Alex Henderson, All Music Guide
"I disc jockey at a Jazz Station near Portland, Oregon. This album appeared on our new release shelf several weeks ago. I played a couple of tracks on the air and went out and purchased a copy for my collection. It blew me away. This group of musicians are happenin' and the genius of Ben Sidran on this production is evident. The philosophic and lyrical voice clips worked in with the music are perfect. You want to join in with the rhythmic dialogue. The liner notes are a little sparse. The music is a groove through all 10 tracks. By the nature of programming music for air play, it is hard for me to listen straight through a whole album but with this album, I Loved it from "Little Sherry" to the cute female voice that almost sounds like she is smiling as she say's "Nick's Bump" on the last track. There is a bit of contrast from track to track so it never bores you. Check out this album, this is a great team of Musicians." - Timothy T. Taylor, KMHD Radio, Portland, OR