P.O. Box 1855  |  Martinsville IN 46151  |  Phone: 765-342-4880   

Jazz

"Who's the 'Cat' on the Piano?"

Jonathan Wiggs Trio


The "Jonathan Wiggs Trio" rehearsed and recorded in the mid-1970's at "RMF Studio" in Martinsville, Indiana, owned by Ronald Max Fulford.  Max recorded many rehearsals of the trio, and encouraged them to produce a LP "demo" to promote them for bookings and a possible recording contract.  The end result was the album, "Who's the 'Cat' on the Piano?"

RCA required a $3,000 deposit for an initial 1,000 pressings of the LP, and the boys were never able to raise the capital.  Due to the deaths of pianist Jonathan Wiggs in August of 2007, and drummer Roy Huston in June of 2009, I wanted to convert the analog tapes to digital, just to share them with the world.

I have completed transfering the analog LP to digital CD, and have placed the songs in the original LP album order (#1-7); note I have added a "bonus" out-take (#8)!  I have written short highlight commentaries about each of the videos.

(In jazz slang, a "cat" was a "hip" musician; Roy had the idea for the album cover, posing his Siamese "Sorcar" on Jon's piano.  Then, when you turned the LP over, you saw a photo of Jon, Roy, and Denny, who were all "hip cats"!  All Wiggs photos by Ronald Gill Studio.)

Jonathan Wiggs Trio

Roy Huston - Jonathan 'Cat' Wiggs - Denny Champlin

FAIR USE NOTICE: The music contained in these audios/videos remains the property of the original copyright owners, and are posted here for educational purposes only; they are not intended for resale. “Fair Use” under U.S.C., Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 107, U.S. Copyright Law.

"Wigged Out"



#1

“Wigged Out” is an original jazz blues number written by John Mark Wiggs, a protégé of the late, great James “Step” Wharton, jazz pianist/composer/arranger from Indianapolis, Indiana.  John played under the stage name of “Jonathan”, and formed this trio in 1974 with veteran jazz percussionist Roy Huston (who was the original drummer in the trio with guitarist David Adkins, fronted by organist Melvin “Mel” Rhyne), and newbie bassist Dennis “Denny” Champlin (who was inspired by the great "Naptown" bassist Mingo Jones).  They played the Midwest (as Roy was quoted, “Some of the finest ‘plush sewers’ we could book!”).  John was most influenced by Mose Allison, Dave Brubeck, and Vince Guaraldi.  The group broke up in 1980, due to the disco era ruining gigs for jazzmen; John went out to play the west coast; Roy went down to Florida to play circus drums; Denny started a music teaching studio and retail store in central Indiana.

"Candy Man"

#2

“The Candy Man” is a song from the 1971 film “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”, written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley.  The most popular cover version was by Sammy Davis, Jr., which hit #1 on Billboard in 1972.  The Wiggs Trio covers this as a straight-up swing instrumental.

"Charade"



#3

“Charade” was composed by the late, great Henry Mancini; it was a beautiful, romantic ballad in “3”, and the Wiggs Trio opened and closed as such, but placed in the middle section a huge, swinging section in “4”.  It was a natural for jazz musicians to improvise on, both rhythmically and melodically.

"Angel Eyes"

#4

“Angel Eyes” (vocal) is a great Matt Dennis tune, with lyrics by Earl Brent.  It cost drummer Roy Huston $50 in drinks one night at the Atkinson Hotel in Indianapolis for pianist James “Step” Wharton to teach Jonathan how to play it (but it was obviously well worth it)!  Jon only sings two songs on this album, but singing was his forte, something he did quite often when performing live.

"Scarborough Fair"



#5

“Scarborough Fair” is an old English tune made popular in the 1960’s by Simon and Garfunkel.  Originally done in 3/4 waltz time, the Wiggs Trio translates this into a 6/8 jazz swing waltz time.  Once in a live performance Denny added a bass solo, pizzicato and arco; Roy offered an extended drum solo (note: this is the only tune on this entire album in which he uses drumsticks; on all the rest he uses wire brushes); that arrangement lasted the entire 45-minute set!  It even got applause for dynamic changes!  "Those were the days, my friends, we though they'd never end, we'd sing and dance, forever and a day; we'd live the life we'd choose, we'd fight and never lose, for we were young and sure to have our way!"

"Satin Doll"

#6

“Satin Doll” was composed in 1953 by jazz greats Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, and made famous by the Duke Ellington Orchestra.  Johnny Mercer wrote lyrics a few years later.  It remains a popular standard tune today.  The Wiggs Trio applies its own interpretation to the tune, most notably different being Jonathan’s stylistic intro and exit; this version features bassist Denny Champlin in a melodic solo.

"Cute"

#7

“Cute” is a Neal Hefti standard made popular by the “Count” Basie Orchestra.  One of Basie’s arrangers was from “Naptown”, pianist James “Step” Wharton, who was a mentor to pianist Jonathan Wiggs, bassist Denny Champlin, and drummer Roy Huston.  This trio was formed in 1974, and a demo album was made in 1975 to promote the group for bookings.  On this cut, Roy’s brush work was clean and articulate; Denny’s bass lines were driving the bottom; and Jon was truly “the ‘Cat’ on the Piano”!

"Angel Eyes"

#8

“Angel Eyes” (instrumental) is a great Matt Dennis tune that Jonathan covered vocally in track four on this album.  This is track eight, which was not on the original LP, but would now be considered a “bonus” track on a modern CD.  Bassist Denny Champlin inspired this instrumental arrangement; he was warming up one evening at RMF Studio by “swinging” the changes to this ballad when Jon and Roy arrived; they joined in, engineer Ronald Max Fulford turned on the tape machines, and as they say, the “rest is history”.  This track comes closer than any of the other seven to what the boys sounded like “live”; they were totally free, having total command of their instruments, pushing the improvisational edges with rhythm, harmony, and melody.  What you hear is pure “Indianapolis style jazz”.

FAIR USE NOTICE: The music contained in these audios/videos remains the property of the original copyright owners, and are posted here for educational purposes only; they are not intended for resale. “Fair Use” under U.S.C., Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 107, U.S. Copyright Law.

Jonathan Wiggs Trio



Roy Huston - Denny Champlin - Jonathan 'Cat' Wiggs