Excerpts from Cincinnati Post Review By Rick Bird
Cincinnati Post staff reporter
You can't find a more aptly titled CD than drummer Philip Paul's new release, "It's About Time." You can't pick a date more appropriate for his CD release party than tonight, as Paul turns 78 today.
And you can't find a more unlikely guest artist: Playing jazz guitar on a cut on the CD is rock 'n' roller Peter Frampton.
Philip Paul is the legendary Cincinnati drummer who has played on over 350 records in his 55-year career, including many of the seminal blues and R&B songs that made King Records the petri dish for rock in the '50s.
Paul was a session drummer at King from the late '40s through the '50s. He literally provided the back beat for the rock 'n' roll stew. A New York native, Paul played at King with Tiny Bradshaw's blues band, often credited with making the first rock records. It is Paul's drumming that is heard on such R&B and blues classics as Wynonie Harris' "Good Rockin' Tonight," Little Willie John's "Fever," Hank Ballard's "The Twist," and on Freddie King's "Hide Away."
Paul, though, has never thought of himself as a rock or blues drummer. It's jazz that he is really all about.
"I always played jazz," he says. "When you are labeled a session drummer, you have to play everything. At King we didn't know what kind of music we'd play. You just had to be prepared. I guess I became known for rhythm and blues. But on the street, where I'm working and making a living, I'm playing jazz all the time."
And there is Paul's new friend -- Peter Frampton. The two met when they were hooked up by producers of the "Hidden Treasures" CD, which features current artists covering King classics. It was released last year as a benefit for the Inclusion Network. Frampton covered blues rocker "Hide Away," with Paul on drums.
Frampton, who moved to Cincinnati two years ago, was amazed to discover Paul living in his adopted home -- the very drummer he grew up listening to when he devoured American blues and R&B songs as a teenager in England.
Paul says Frampton was eager to contribute some licks to his new album. "I thought that would be different. He thought so, too. He sounds great. It shows you how close blues and jazz are."
Frampton laid down his part at his home studio in Indian Hill, playing on a track called "We 3 Plus," written by Cincinnati pianist Sam Jackson, who also plays on the cut. Frampton's breezy guitar nicely meshes with Jackson's piano on the tune that is classic swing jazz.
While Frampton's appearance is the sexy hook for the album, Paul is the star. He takes on a wide array of styles ranging from a bossa nova to blues and swing jazz. Paul chose to cover a few songs that he originally recorded in the '50s when he worked on records for King's jazz label, Bethlehem. He also did two albums for Columbia with the Roy Meriweather Trio.
From those days Paul remakes the grooving organ trio tune "Pick Yourself," first done with Milt Buchner. And he revisits Lalo Shifrin's "Cincinnati Kid," which Paul recorded with Meriweather as part of an album covering movie themes.
"He has that older jazz style. He's not a flamboyant player," Antony said about Paul. "He just always seems to play what's needed and nothing more."
And Paul on his own style: "I'm the kind of drummer that they call staying in the pocket who plays good time, a good back-up drummer. Musicians like to play with me because they know I'm going to provide a good strong beat for whatever they are doing."
Publication Date: 08-11-2003
Legendary drummer Philip Paul, is a product of West Indian parents. Born in New York and raised in Manhattan, his music career began at about the age of 16. With the tutoring and help of family musicians and friends, he began playing around town. His career really took off when he began playing with musicians such as Lock-Jaw Davis, Sonny Stitt, Bud Powell, and " Diz. He played the Savoy Ballroom with Buddy Johnson's Big Band, and with the great vocalist, Arthur Prysock. This eventually led to meeting Tiny Bradshaw. In 1951, he traveled to Cincinnati to join Tiny Bradshaw at the famous Cotton Club which was to become his home base for 12 years. In Cincinnati, Philip met Sid Nathan, president and owner of King Records. Philip became the studio drummer for King Records during some of its most productive years from 1952 -1964. He played on over 350 recordings at King with numerous artists such as Hank Ballard, Milt Buckner, and Freddie King. In 1967, Philip began several years of recording for Columbia Records in New York as one third of the Roy Meriwether Trio.
In 1951 Philip met a young lady named Juanita Rollins at the Cotton Club. She had been a dancer at the Cotton Club but was a graduate of Poro Beauty College and was working as a beautician. In 1952, they were married in Baltimore while Philip was on the road. Philip and Juanita had a daughter, Ramona, who was a nurse in Cincinnati until her recent retirement. In the 1950's, the music community was a close knit group. A friend, Cincinnati born composer and saxophonist Frank Foster would often remark about how much he liked Juanita's "shiny stockings". The famous jazz tune, penned in 1955, became a Count Bassie standard.
Mr. Paul has paid his road dues accompanying many jazz artists such as Herbie Mann, Jimmy Smith, and Nat Adderly throughout most of the country. He has played festivals and clubs including the famous Apollo Theatre in New York. Philip has accompanied George Weins' Newport Jazz All-Stars throughout the U.S. and Canada.
While no longer touring, Mr Paul continues to be active in music in his adopted home of Cincinnati. He recently received a "Lifetime CAMMY" award from the Cincinnati Enquirer for his contributions to the music industry. He has appeared on local television shows in Cincinnati and Dayton. He regularly performs at jazz clubs, and on the recordings of local jazz artists. He is involved in the effort to restore some of the old King Records facility to its original condition. However, Philip does continue to supply the beat annually as the show drummer for the nationally acclaimed Ebony Fashion Show which he has done for 20 years. Although the show tours throughout the Midwest, Mr. Paul doesn't plan on quitting this gig anytime soon. "It's just too much of a good time."