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Irving Stokes: Just Friends

Phil Schaap suggests in his notes that Irving Stokes may turn out to be the Doc Cheatham of the twenty-first century. Well, I first heard this trumpet player when Earl Hines played a return engagement with a big band at The Riverboat in NYC in 1967. He sounded good then, and he still sounds good, with something of a first trumpet’s gravity in his phrasing, but then, of course, he’s a relatively young fellow (born in 1926). According to Grove, his career has included engagements with Tiny Bradshaw, Andy Kirk, Lunceford, Erskine Hawkins, Ellington, Buddy Johnson and Jacquet, besides Lou Donaldson and Panama Francis, whom Schaap mentions.

He mostly plays open here, with a firm, positive sound, but on “All of Me” he uses a harmon mute effectively for stinging attack. Apart from well-known standards, Kenny Dorham’s “Blue Basso” proves a good vehicle for him to demonstrate versatility, but the slow “Waterfront” and “Laura” tend to go on too long. It is good to hear Lloyd Mayers again on piano (note his solo on “Perdido”) and Eddie Locke-a favorite of Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge-is always a pleasure on drums, as is the consistent Earl May on bass. The instrumentation of trumpet and rhythm brings to mind the long Jonah Jones series and is, incidentally, a reminder that it is high time Capitol came through with some CDs of Jonah’s best work. They’d teach the “smooth” folk a few salutary lessons!

Originally Published