Ever since I began this little weekly exercise last summer, there are few jazz groups I’ve wanted to write about more than I’ve wanted to write about this one.
The Dynamic 3B’s consists of a mixture of six famous and not-so-famous musicians. To the best of my knowledge, they recorded only one album as a group, the 1993 release titled “After Hours With The Dynamic 3B’s”.
To say this is one of my favorite albums of all time would be an understatement.
So just who are these folks calling themselves “The Dynamic 3B’s”?
Bernard Purdie, the self-proclaimed “World’s Most Recorded Drummer”
Bross Townsend on piano
Bob Cunningham on bass
Carrie Smith on vocals
Fred Smith on trumpet
Houston Person on sax
Bernard Purdie was born on June 11, 1939 in Elkton, Maryland. He began playing drums while still a young boy, and began playing for money at age 14. A complete listing of the artists “Pretty” Purdie has performed with would be well beyond the scope of this article, but even an abbreviated list is impressive, including such as Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Steely Dan, B.B. King, Larry Coryell, the Brecker Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Tom Jones, Paul Butterfield, and many more. He claims to have performed on over 3,000 albums, and no one seems to be disputing the accuracy of that statement. (About that moniker: I can only assume he must have been extremely good-looking when he was a young man, because he sure ain’t “pretty” these days! Heh.)
Bross Townsend was one of the lesser-known artists to appear on this album. He was born October 18, 1933 and died on May 12, 2003. In “The Biographical Encyclopedia Of Jazz”, Feather and Gitler state that Townsend began playing piano in his church at age 11, and went on to play with Woody Herman, Gene Ammons, John Coltrane, Sonny Stitt, and many others. His career included stints in Broadway shows, movies and TV.
Bob Cunningham was born December 28, 1934 in Cleveland, Ohio. Little information about him is available online, other than that provided on his web site. He began studying piano at age seven, but at age twelve his interests turned to the bass. His ongoing career has seen him play with many great musicians of all genres, including Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Abbey Lincoln, Yusef Lateef, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Kenny Dorham, Joe Henderson, and on and on…
Houston Person was born in Newberry, South Carolina on November 10, 1934. He originally played piano, as did his mother, but eventually he opted for the tenor sax. Some of the many performers he has appeared with over the last sixty or so years include Don Menza, Leo Wright, Eddie Harris, Cedar Walton, Charles Earland, Etta Jones, Johnny Hammond, Ron Carter, and others. Gitler and Feather call him a “blues oriented player with a large, warm sound”, and he has been a perennial favorite among jazz lovers. He is also going to be the subject of a future JFASN column.
“After Hours” opens with the Gershwin classic, “Strike Up The Band”. This is one of my favorite songs on this album. So much so that it and “Down By The Riverside” on Reggie Houston’s album “The Gazebo Sessions” (reviewed here previously) caused me to devise a system to keep track of which songs I played on the air and when. Otherwise, I would have played them practically every other week!
“Strike Up The Band” opens with Purdie’s drum, appropriately enough, and features everyone in the group except Smith. This song is definitely Person’s to make or break, and when he joins in a little over a minute on, he absolutely makes it a sparkling, wonderfully uplifting joy to listen to. (I told you this song was one of my favorites, right?)
For those of you who dislike drum solos, and I know you’re out there, Purdie does take a fairly short solo part-way through. Just sit back and close your eyes and let his remarkable playing carry you along, and before you know it Person will return with that big warm tenor sax and make you forget your pain.
Next up is “Glory Of Love”, a decidedly more mellow song than “Strike Up The Band”, yet this arrangement builds the heat with its own wonderfully slow burn, and the ending is anything but mellow.
Townsend pretty much carries the day on this one, and long before the last note dies away you’ll marvel that such a huge talent eluded your jazz radar until now. I know I did the first time I heard him play, and it was quite a sad surprise to discover that he had died a few years before I picked up my copy of “After Hours”.
“Glory Of Love” is followed by the title track. It is similar to “Glory Of Love” in that it begins on a mellow note, yet the fire builds, slowly but surely. Purdie, Fred Smith, and Cunningham carry it along until Person’s haunting tenor joins them about two and a half minutes in.
“Backwater Blues” may fool some folks into thinking it’s about New Orleans and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Excepting the biblical flood of Noah-fame, for which there is no evidence, there have been many other so-called “great floods”. Both Smiths carry this song, vocal and trumpet, and Townsend’s piano does more than just fill in the gaps. This is the shortest song on the album, and when Carrie Smith’s voice begins to fade you can’t help but wish they’d let it go a bit longer. Her voice has a deep vibrato that catches your ear and makes you hang on every bit of the lyric.
“Samba de Amor”, a Bob Cunningham composition, opens with Cunningham bowing his bass while Townsend gently tickles his keys. Then Fred Smith’s trumpet joins them and we have a rolling, gentle back and forth. Things begin to pick up about two minutes in and then Townsend runs with it until Fred Smith again takes the lead. “Samba de Amor” runs a little under twelve minutes and is far and away the longest song on the album.
After the first few quiet minutes the pace picks up and it seems almost like a completely different song. Eventually almost everyone gets the chance to strut their stuff, although Person and Carrie Smith are both absent from this one.
Two more songs (“Soul Fruit” and “Mood Indigo”) give “After Hours With The Dynamic 3B’s” an even eight tracks. They are both wonderful songs that I think you’ll enjoy. Which pretty well sums up my opinion of the whole album. I think you’ll find “After Hours With The Dynamic 3B’s” to be an excellent addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night!
“After Hours With The Dynamic 3B’s” is not a CD that you can just walk into your local music store and find on the rack. You’re going to have to look for it, and I’d suggest you begin your search on either “Pretty” Purdie’s web site (link above) or Bob Cunningham’s (also linked above). The disk is available through Amazon, but at much higher prices.
Thanks for reading this.
Wood Village, Oregon
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