Liner Note Discoveries: Peter Washington on Doug Watkins, Max Roach & Roy Haynes on Inspiration, and Sonny Rollins

A grainy rendering of Trane (Wilbur Harden & John Coltrane)
I've always been a big fan of liner notes and the highly specific pleasures they afford: there's always a history lesson or two before digging into a record. Here, a few pre-Thanksgiving treats:

From The Complete Savoy Sessions: Wilbur Harden & John Coltrane (Savoy Jazz Originals, 2010):
Bassist Peter Washington, one of the most in-demand bassists of the 90s, has listened well and thought a lot about [Doug] Watkins: "He was different from everybody else playing at the time. When he came on the scene in the mid-50s, nobody really had the length of note he had. Bass players had heavy attack and a shorter ring to the note with the exception of Percy Heath, who was Doug's big idol. He took what Percy had done, and by softening the attack and lengthening the note gave the beat a more supple quality. It's a much more flexible way of playing, which allowed him to play in many more situations than some of the more famous players. He wasn't concerned with projecting his sound through sheer volume and playing hard. It was a very sophisticated concept whereby Watkins used his intonation and his placement of the note to be heard rather than sheer power. In this sense he pointed the way towards Ron Carter... 
...He made the lowest string on the bass E string stand out in with a new clarity and purity with no slapping or fingerboard sound. Doug brought something to the jazz bass that no one did - not even Ray Brown, Paul Chambers and Heath. I think he died too soon for recognition to catch up with him. He continued to improve as the years went by, and if he hadn't died in that tragic car crash when he was only 27, Watkins might very well have given even Ron Carter a run for his money as the first call jazz bassist." — Loren Schoenberg
From Out of the Afternoon, Roy Haynes Quartet (Impulse, 1962):
Since playing with local groups as a teenager around his [Roy Haynes's] hometown, Boston, the variety in his musical career has equipped him to meet the demands of any jazz situation. He worked with Sabby Lewis and Frank Newton in Boston before joining Luis Russell's big band at the Savoy Ballroom, New York, in 1945. Originally inspired by Joe Jones' solo on Count Basie's record of The World is Mad, Roy was thus personally involved in the era before big bands were eclipsed. — Michael Cuscuna
From Mop Mop, Max Roach (Le Jazz compilation, 1995):
Max has been a dedicated musician since he was old enough to sit at the piano keyboard and pick out tunes at the age of eight. Two years later he took up drums; he played in a school marching band and was introduced to jazz via a group of amateur musicians who had a Dixieland band. Then came exposure to the Count Basie band on the radio. Chick Webb and O'Neil Spencer (with the John Kirby Sextet); Cozy Cole (with the Cab Calloway orchestra) led on to Sid Catlett who Max rates as "my main source of inspiration. I remember coming to Chicago (in March, 1951) to play a concert. Sid was in the wings. He came to see me, as he always did. While we were on the stage he laid down and died right there. He left us right there. Funny how tragedy strikes without warning. I don't think he knew it was coming." (Years later Max recorded a tribute to Catlett. For Big Sid, included in his Atlantic album "Drums Unlimited"). 
Chronologically, after Catlett it was Kenny Clarke who attracted young Roach and along with youngsters such as Mickey Scrima and Shelly Manne he literally sat at Kenny's feet at the 52nd Street after-hours clubs, fascinated by Klook's ability to turn the time around, break up the beat and contribute to the improvisations of soloists such as Charlie Parker. (Sometimes the youthful Roach had difficulty in getting into some of the clubs because he was under-age; Ira Gitler relates one incident when Max pencilled on an imitation moustache with an eyebrow pencil to try to convince doormen that he was an adult.) — Alun Morgan
From Sonny Rollins and the Big Brass, Sonny Rollins (MetroJazz, 1958):
His rhythm section mates were bassist Jimmy Bond and drummer Frankie Dunlop, and [Dick] Katz remembers vividly: "Sonny would warm up by giving the best imitation of Lester Young I ever heard. He would also sometimes do a marvelous Don Byas impersonation. He had done his homework. Inside the lid of his case were photos of Art Tatum and Bud Powell. He was unfailingly polite, but he was in a period of beginning to eliminate the pianist. He probably found the piano intrusive. Sonny was doing a lot of harmonic substitutions without cueing me in, so a large part of my job was staying out of his way. He was totally spontaneous." — Loren Schoenberg [also fascinating to compare to other stories of famous musical mimics, e.g., Stan Getz and Charlie Parker]
Also, this is just too [insert mitigating adjective here] to leave out: the opening two sentences of the ever-perceptive Leonard Feather's original 1958 liner notes to the above album:
In the chapter devoted to the story of the tenor saxophone in "The Book of Jazz," I described Sonny Rollins as "one of the most influential figures since Getz, fashioning his own work from a blend of Lester Young, Charlie Parker, and possibly Coleman Hawkins." It now appears that I was a trifle conservative. — Leonard Feather