Sunday, December 31, 2006

Into the new... Gus Cannon... Steve Lacy... Von Schlippenbach quartet... Pharoah Sanders...

One has returned from the wilds... and the new year's eve festivities beckon... so: a brief holding action - four tracks that hopefully reflect the diversity this blog strives for... which I intend to try and broaden further in the New Year...

Gus Cannon recorded 'Minglewood Blues' in 1928 with his Jug Stompers. A raw yet curiously delicate track...

Steve Lacy and Don Cherry playing 'Let's Cool One' from the Monk canon - something very fresh about this track- Lacy in particular seems calm and unhurried...

Alexander Von Schlippenbach's quartet (with Evan Parker) - a long clattering extravaganza from one of the best and most consistent European combos... 'Wenn Wir Kehlkopfspieler,' recorded for a live radio broadcast in 1975, yet only released in 2000, I think...

This track - 'Venus - Upper and Lower Egypt' - is under Pharoah Sanders' name but was unissued as far as I know until it came out on the monster Albert Ayler Revenant 9 cd set (link below) - a long free jazz blowout from the sixties with Albert and Pharoah on tenors alongside an unknown alto and third tenor player... an interesting obscurity...

And... a happy new year to all... back soon...

In the Videodrome...

Eric Dolphy in Europe...

... and with Trane...

... the Coltrane Quartet – doing Afro Blue...

and a vid from Ecstatic Peace of a live performance from Paul Flaherty, Joe Lovano and Chris Corsano...

...and the future beckons... The Good Anna...

Gus Cannon
(Gus Cannon (j, ban); Ashley Thompson (g); Noah Lewis (h) ).
Minglewood Blues


Steve Lacy/Don Cherry
(Steve Lacy (ss); Don Cherry (cnt); Carl Brown (b); Billy Higgins (d) ).
Let's Cool One


Alexander Von Schlippenbach Quartet
(Alexander Von Schlippenbach (p); Evan Parker (ts); Peter Kowald (b); Paul Lovens (d)).
Wenn Wir Kehlkopfspieler


Pharoah Sanders
(Pharoah Sanders (ts); Chris Capers (tp); unknown (as); Albert Ayler (ts); unknown (ts); Dave Burrell (p); Sirone (b); Roger Blank (d) ).
Venus-Upper and Lower Egypt


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Almost Xmas... Monk, Pete Johnson, Paul Bley, George Russell, Louis Armstrong, Pepper Adams, Brotherhood of Breath, Evan Parker, MJQ... phew!

A bit delayed on the posting front - an exhausting (but rewarding) recording session with the boys - followed by my usual health nose dive coupled with a tooth infection. What larks... All sorted now - hopefully. So: probably the last one before xmas... 'tis the season to be jolly...

Thelonious Monk recorded his first album for Columbia in 1962 (released in 1963). His composition 'Bright Mississippi,' based on 'Sweet Georgia Brown,' shows the harmonic bones underneath in the theme and in constant references throughout both Charlie Rouse's solo and Monk's - one of his best, I think – yet somehow remains a quintessential Thelonious theme. Moving on two levels interestingly...

Another pianist... the boogie woogie stomper, Pete Johnson, one of the Big Three, along with Meade Lux Lewis (what a great name...) and Gene Ammons' old man, Albert, here employing that mighty left hand on his solo tour de force – 'Roll 'Em Pete.' Interesting to speculate on the influence of boogie piano – surely the most rhythmic and 'drum like' of styles. Conlon Noncarrow, for one, acknowledged his debt to the genre... Cecil Taylor – via Monk – perhaps? Always something grounded and down about Cecil, no matter how abstract. (Jaki Byard, of course - but he could play the whole history from ragtime upwards...)

Paul Bley from the sixties and 'Closer.' Spare and dissonant, probing, against a suitably enigmatic bass and drums. Going into an emotional space some way from the previous two offerings – oddly the Monk nearer to Johnson, I feel, despite his own crashing dissonances that make the bridge back to Bley. Yet all jazz...

George Russell 1956 – the avant garde of the day in a dense and complex composition featuring Bill Evans 'Concerto for Billy the Kid' – shades of Copland in the title – the pianist launching strings of piercing single note lines that unpeel from the harmonic structure, displaying the inherent linearity of Russell's approach, Evans sounding as if the figure of Lennie Tristano is hovering at times. Hard hitting piano. Art Farmer taking a nice solo – an often underrated thinker who ventured down some interesting paths... A piece that ambitiously tries to bring composition and improvisation into balance... My own thought about these attempts to break the fifties perimeter fence is that the key was rhythm - when the drummers took it away from straight or even implied four four the space was opened... Elvin Jones, Tony Williams but ultimately Sunny Murray and the others were needed... after that everything drops into place...

Louis Armstrong recorded 'Wild Man Blues' in 1927 with his Hot Seven. Some debate as to whether this is a Jelly Roll Morton composition or one of Louis'... what is not in dispute is the majestically assured trumpet – taking the breaks in doubled time and hinting at rhythmic complexities way beyond the backing musicians. Louis is all over this – although Johnny Dodds runs him close...

Pepper Adams was a mighty baritone player who could ride the unwieldy horn dashingly through the bop landscape and beyond. This is 'Bloos Booze' – a twelve bar that starts with Elvin Jone's cymbals, an odd, lurching tramp of a bass figure and Hank Jones trinkly treble figures before the odd yet matched front line of baritone and euphonium take the theme. Adams solos, leisurely spinning a satisfyingly melodic improvisation – he regarded Wardell Gray as an influence which is telling. Bernard McKinney has a warm, rubbery sound on the euphonium, plenty of space here for his relaxed solo. Hank Jones tips in some classy single note bebop – mainly up the keyboard. Duvivier weighs in for a couple of choruses, eloquent across the bass range. Melody central and swinging all the way through. A gem...

The first of the two long tracks is a kind of homage to my South African roots that demonstrates both the best of that country's artistic endeavours and the shadow that apartheid threw over so many of its citizens. Chris McGregor and the Blue Notes – white pianist amid black band members – came to Europe in the sixties to escape the hassles back home that an interracial group had to undergo. They were an invigorating breath of sweet and fiery fresh air – mutating into the Brotherhood of Breath indeed, incorporating like-minded European musicians such Skidmore, Surman, Osborne (who had a wild trio called SOS as I remember...) and the others on tap here. 'Night Poem' offers so much as it unfolds – beginning with flutes and African slanted rhythms that offer a hint of what 'world music' was to become – or rather what it could be – as the piece slowly builds into a sprawling, surging triumph of the spirit...

Evan Parker played with the Brotherhood of Breath on some notable sessions. Here he is, the quiet revolutionary, unpacking his ground-breaking long line solo saxophone playing on a track from 'The Snake Decides,' 'Leipzig' Folly.' There is a rigour to his playing, an iron integrity that makes his technical innovations the more satisfying... Is this jazz? To quote one of the current catch-phrases doing the rounds, 'Am I bothered?'

Finally – as promised/threatened last week... but it has to be done... the MJQ playing 'First variation on God rest you merry gentlemen.' My only overtly Xmas track. The Modern Jazz Quartet always have a special place in my heart because they were the first live group I ever saw as a wide-eyed young jazz fanatic way back when at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester, in the days when the stupid Brit MU embargo made visiting Americans so much rarer an entity. I still love this track...

So: Merry Xmas to all... I'm off to the wilds of Cumbria in a couple of days... to return invigorated with another batch of musics and a New Year's Eve mix - next year we may start to stretch out more...

In the Videodrome...

A Xmas feast...

A rare 1954 glimpse of the cool school in action... complete with mellophone... sans Tristano... add Billy Taylor...

... MJQ strike gold...

...Oliver Nelson, Art Farmer and Lee Konitz (again) are 'Just Friends'...

... an oblique link via the cool school to Brit altoist Bruce Turner...

... back to FREE JAZZ... compendium clip... some cool hats and Bill Dixon in a scarf...

... and wheeling back to 1962... finale of the American Folk Blues Festival...

... Stan Getz and Mary Lou Williams doing 'Lush Life'...

... this time of the year we all need Spiritual Unity don't we? A nice reminder of a great gig that I never got round to reviewing... thanks Chris...

Thelonious Monk
(Thelonious Monk (p); Charlie Rouse (ts); John Ore (b); Frankie Dunlop (d) ).
Bright Mississippi


Pete Johnson
(Pete Johnson (p) ).
Roll 'em Pete


Paul Bley
(Paul Bley (p) Steve Swallow (b) Barry Altschul (d) ).


George Russell
( Art Farmer (tp) Hal McKusick (fl, as) Bill Evans (p) Barry Galbraith (g) Milt Hinton (b) Paul Motian (d) ).
Concerto for Billy The Kid


Louis Armstrong
(Louis Armstrong (cnt); John Thomas (tb); Johnny Dodds (cl); Lil Armstrong (p); Johnny St. Cyr ( bjo); Pete Briggs (tu); Baby Dodds (d) ).
Wild Man Blues


Pepper Adams
(Pepper Adams (bs); Bernard McKinney (euph); Hank Jones (p); George Duvivier (b); Elvin Jones (d) ).
Bloos Booz


Brotherhood of Breath
(Chris McGregor: piano; Dudu Pukwana, Alan Skidmore, Mike Osborne, John Surman, Ronnie Beer (saxes/flutes etc); (Mongezi Feza, Nich Charig, Harry Beckett (t); Malcolm Griffiths, Nick Evans (tr); Harrie Miller (b); Louis Moholo (d) ).
Night Poem


Evan Parker
(Evan Parker (ss).
Leipzig's Folly


Modern Jazz Quartet
(John Lewis (p); Milt Jackson (vb); Percy Heath (b) Connie Kay (d) ).
Variation on God rest ye merry gentlemen


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Cecil Taylor... Bill Evans/Warne Marsh/Lee Konitz...Eddie Condon... Roland Kirk... Miles Davis...

I am always fascinated by the variety that 'jazz' has offered throughout its relatively short history... and I am not being coy by inserting the word between inverted commas... the area that the word tries to map has always been fought over...

Cecil Taylor recorded 'Bulbs' in 1961 as one of the tracks on one side of an album released under Gil Evans' name: 'Into the Hot.' (The other side was taken up with compositions by Johnny Carisi,the composer of 'Israel'). Transitional stuff... Lyons solos – bebop stretched to fluidly accommodate the new freedoms - and Archie Shepp does a manful job – but the track is made by the thumping piano of the leader over the dream rhythm section of Henry Grimes and Sunny Murray. 'Bulbs' is a fascinating composition – abstract lines rubbing against riffs – like the leader's solo which starts with a fairly conventional phrase and then hops skips and jumps into other dimensions. A mirror of the transitional state...

Bill Evans recorded with Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh in 1977. (There was a previous encounter in 1959). 'Night and Day' opens with the two horns weaving round each other in an airy dance. Marsh frequently plays high up the tenor so the timbres are closely matched – then Evans springs in with bass and drums – some almost Tatumesque flourishes and variations on the tune. Marsh takes a stop time break then solos in that unpredictable line of his. This is linearity supreme, Tristano school – unravelling the changes horizontally. Marsh was one of the unsung greats. As is Konitz – whom I missed a few weeks back at the London Jazz Festival. He solos next – with more muscle than one would usually expect – Evans getting quite animated behind him, sounding like he was having fun. Some breaks and everyone briefly all in – Marsh finally dropping deep for the final tenor note. Stirring stuff...

'Can one of you guys start the blues in C?' Eddie Condon commences this live track from 1971 – late Chicago Dixieland, his hybrid style carried through from the twenties and developed by the force of his will as much as anything. Condon, a banjo player and later guitarist was never a featured intrumentalist, preferring to strum in the rhythm section - and perhaps more to the point, make his mark as a bandleader and fixer of sessions – including some of the first integrated ones with Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller. And a nightclub proprietor – and character... a pre-modern Ronnie Scott... (His book, 'We Called it Music' is worth a read...). I've always liked his music, something about the anarchic boozy spirit of it... Condon famously dissed bebop – 'They flat their fifths, we drink ours...' But plenty of beboppers dissed the coming avant garde... and so it goes... Hi Wynton... Here, we have consummate trad/mainstream jazz – Wellstood and Davern could, I reckon, fit into most jazz paradigms. Krupa sounds the most unsure, his drums a bit clumping. A slow, drawling blues – led by Wild Bill's trumpet and Davern's homage-y but not blatantly servile out-of-Bechet soprano. In their own way, an irreverent and joyful keeping to the trad virtues – sort of Marsalis with humour...

Getting near to Xmas – better dust off that MJQ track for the looming carol season. For now, Roland Kirk blasting his way through 'We Free Kings.' Ho ho ho – the man for whom the adjective 'inimitable' always suggests itself inexorably... Powering in on all his horns, mutant and otherwise – including some funky flute.

To finish with – a big beast of a track – reverse the name and what do you get – Davis = Sivad. Miles turned the jazz world on its head with 'Bitches Brew' – this is a live (mainly – Teo Macero chopped and mixed in the studio later) set recorded at the Cellar Door in 1970. Starting off on a declaratory drum roll and going into a fast-paced bass-heavy vamp as Miles whah whahs over the rock (in both senses) solid Michael Henderson and Jack De Johnette lay down, the track mutates into a slow, ominous bluesy groove. McLoughlin plays a nifty solo – his guitar tone sounding almost synth-like. The English guitar player always participated in The Prince of Darkness's musics as if to the manner borne... Followed by Keith Jarrett in the days before he renounced the electric piano as the keyboard of the devil or something similar (Get thee behind me, fusion). Miles returns with an open horn stab and a couple of skewed phrases before building up some longer lines – and the track dies abruptly. In the longer and slower section, interesting to note how much space there is in the rhythm – which gives the drummer room to state the beat and also play across it – jazz-rock-fusion unfortunately, in the main, never successfully managed this combination – of jazz and rock....

In the Videodrome...

Eddie Condon on YouTube...

Sidney Bechet
over in France in the 1950's playing the St Louis Blues...

Roland Kirk in Europe playing 'Bag's Groove'...

Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor (p) Jimmy Lyons (as) Archie Shepp (ts) Ted Curson (t) Roswell Rudd (tb) Henry Grimes (b) Sunny Murray (d)


Bill Evans/Lee Konitz/Warner Marsh
Lee Konitz (as) Warne Marsh (ts) Bill Evans (p) Eddie Gomez (b) Eliot Zigmund (d)


Eddie Condon
Kenny Davern (ss); Wild Bill Davison (cnt); Dick Wellstood (p); Eddie Condon (g); Gene Krupa (d).
Blues in C


Roland Kirk
Roland Kirk (ts, mzo, str, fl, siren); Hank Jones (p); Wendell Marshall (b); Charlie Persip (d)
We Free Kings


Miles Davis
Miles Davis (t); Gary Bartz (ts); John McLoughlin (eg); Keith Jarrett (ep); Michael Henderson (b); Airto Moreira (perc); Jack De Johnette (d)


Thursday, December 14, 2006

A small tribute to Jay McShann 1916-2006... with Maria Muldaur, Charlie Parker, Big Joe Turner... and Dave Brubeck...

A few tracks to note the passing of Jay McShann. Leading off with 'Backwater Blues,' the old Bessie Smith number, here interpreted by Maria Muldaur whose mature voice makes the stretch from classic twenties blues to the almost present. A rocking rolling blues with some pithy guitar work by Duke Robichaux, backing horns and plunger muted trumpet that move between r and b and jazz inflections/riffs – and the bouncing piano of Mr McShann – who leads the track in with a spoken intro...

McShann ran probably the last great swing band out of Kansas City at the tail end of the thirties. He also employed the young Charlie Parker whose first recorded solo was on 'Hootie Blues' - which you can find on the There Stands The Glass blog's tribute to McShann, along with some other tracks... Here's 'Sepian Bounce,' from the same period - on the cusp of bebop... stomping McShann piano, some nice tenor and a fascinating glimpse of young Charlie P – and a roaring ensemble...

Big Joe Turner was a Kansas City musical giant (literally) and another whose career crossed many a boundary (for example, he was arguably one of the founders of rock and roll via some of his early fifties hits). Here he is in tandem with McShann on 'Piney Brown Blues.' The pianist essays some powerful choruses, driven on by the exhortations of Big Joe. Recorded in 1974...

Lastly – an oddity. A piano duo with Dave Brubeck on another twelve bar – 'Mission Ranch Blues.'
Recorded in 2002 as part of the Clint Eastwood movie 'Piano Blues.'

“I think he served as a bridge between swing and bebop,” said saxophonist Bobby Watson. “He was open to young people coming with new ideas that weren’t traditionally thought of as swing. He was really a man with an open mind to all styles of music.” (Quoted from the Kansas City Star obituary here... some nice links to video footage as well).

A long and epic journey that has sadly just ended...

In the Videodrome...

I couldn't find any YouTube footage – surprisingly – so here's some other KC related music...

Big Joe Turner at the Apollo, 1955...

Another KC man – the Count from 1943...

And the inimitable Jimmy Rushing alongside Basie singing the 'Kansas City Blues'...

Jay McShann/Maria Muldaur/Duke Robichaux
Backwater Blues


Jay McShann
Sepian Bounce


Jay McShann/Big Joe Turner
Piney Brown Blues


Jay McShann/Dave Brubeck
Mission Ranch Blues


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Jay McShann January 12, 1916 - December 7, 2006...RIP...

I've received a comment to an older post which says that Jay McShann has died - I just checked his web site and apparently he passed away on December 7. A truly great man,whose life spanned the breadth of the music and who was still recording recently - condolences to family and friends. I'll see if I can dig out some music in tribute later on...

Friday, December 08, 2006

and some Miles Davis... Bitches Brew...

Infuriating - having taken the Miles Davis link off the previous post - Savefile now apparently operational again... So here goes...


Miles – a truly vanguard piece: the title track of 'Bitches Brew.' Shared honours between Teo Macero's skills - a landmark of studio production techniques:

'Bitches Brew also pioneered the application of the studio as a musical instrument, featuring stacks of edits and studio effects that were an integral part of the music. Even though it sounded like an old-style studio registration of a bunch of guys playing some amazing stuff, large sections of it relied heavily on studio technology to create a fantasy that never was...' (from here... scroll down)

and the revolutionary dark swirling electric jazz into rock – and back - that flowed from the leader's imagination...

Miles Davis
(Miles Davis – trumpet;Wayne Shorter - soprano sax; Bennie Maupin - bass clarinet; Chick Corea - electric piano; John McLaughlin - electric guitar; Harvey Brooks - Fender bass; Dave Holland - bass
Lenny White, Jack DeJohnette – drums; Jim Riley – percussion).
Bitches Brew


Stan Getz, Wardell Gray, Serge Chaloff... Clifford Brown/Max Roach... George Russell... John Zorn/Derek Bailey/William Parker...

Let's start with some forties bebop: Stan Getz in 1949 playing 'Crazy Chords.' A tour de force for Stan, changing key every chorus in a bravura display, ushered in by the speedy elegance of Haig. Gatz extends the school of Lester into his own technically flamboyant space – dexterity - melodic and harmonic - and gorgeous tone to match...

Wardell Gray – another from the jazz Legion of the Lost, dying under mysterious circumstances in 1955. Here he is playing 'Twisted,' (also later made famous in the Annie Ross version). An odd latin-y intro – then straight into the blues. Gray also came out of Lester (via Bird) but by 1949 when these tracks were recorded he was firmly his own man, tone slightly darker than Prez, a tough yet supple quality to his lines. Backed by Charlie Parker's rhythm section – Al Haig delivers classic, rippling bebop piano. Tommy Potter – a nice bass solo, going beyond the usual steady four to the bar before Wardell returns – Haynes dropping obligatory but apposite bombs.

Serge Chaloff was one of the top bop baritone players (the best according to many), heading up against Gerry Mulligan. Another tragic character – after giving up the addiction that blighted his life, he died from cancer in 1957. This live recording from 1949 of the Denzil Best tune 'Move' (more famous, perhaps, in its rendition by the Miles Davis Birth of the Cool band a year before) is taken at a fast run. The fiery trumpet is apparently – Miles himself... which made me check the discography. Some critics would have it that he couldn't play as well as this and at this tempo... Chaloff solos and puts the big horn smoothly through its bebop paces. Sonny Stitt powers in for some fast Bird-type blowing yet – you can hear his tone is slightly different to Parker's, despite the lurking presence – Stitt always under the shadow of the master – unfairly... Combative... Trombone - Benny Green, having no problems keeping up... Bud Powell positively clambers in for his solo – dazzling, stomping stuff. Max takes a quick spot before a brief exchange between the horns and back into the theme...

Into the fifties... one can never have too much Clifford Brown... He was a trumpeter who possessed in abundance: ideas, tone, fire, driven by the (joy) spring of youth... sadly dying in a car crash... for those in peril on the road should be the hymn for musicians... here he is, in 1956, a few months before his fatal accident, with Max Roach and their co-led quintet, Rollins newly added to the tenor seat and Richie Powell, Bud's brother (who died with Brownie in the crash) on piano, plus George Borrow on bass... An alternate take of 'What is this thing called love?' Starting on an odd trumpet flutter (shades of later Bill Dixon!) then drums as the bass and piano hold a pedal point under trumpet and tenor, building the groove before Brown goes fleetly into the theme, answered by Rollins in the middle eight, trumpet returns for last eight then: Brownie out of the trap and going strong – joyous playing, he never seems content to run changes, always a strong melodic thread. Rollins seems almost diffident in comparison initially before building his own strong solo... Powell – swift and clean single note lines with a bluesy edge. Borrow, solid throughout, takes a four to the bar solo. Max back in the mix but making his presence felt. Brief ensemble, bass, drums and return of ensemble – then Max, a pithily complex solo, return of horns, playing tag. Definitive of where small band bop was at the time... stretching out more because of new recording techniques, some of the frenetic compressed fury of the older records removed in place of new spaces to breath...

George Russell was in the shadows for many years before he was finally and belatedly recognised for his compositional and arranging abilities – but also for his behind-the-scenes influence on the direction of jazz as bebop moved towards the linearities of modality. He reminds me of another august survivor, Andrew Hill, in that they both constructed strategies that enable their musicians to move outside while keeping the roots inside. This is the title track from his 1961 album 'Ezz-thetics.' Hearing it again makes me think of many of those soon to come Blue Note sessions that incorporated new ideas within a solid rhythmic framework. The theme – like a complex bebop line stretched out into another dimension, based on the chords of 'Love for Sale.' Baker solos, fast and firm – giving a few quotes in time-honoured bop fashion – 'I love Paris' and 'Bebop.' The trumpet of Don Ellis, bright and sharp... another whose star sank into obscurity after his untimely death. Then Eric Dolphy, who really seems to grasp what this is about – fast, urgent and skittering against the harmonic boundaries in long, flowing lines. A round of fours between horns and drums and piano... fragment of theme into a collapsing ending of seemingly free blowing... almost a harbinger...

Moving swifly on, as they say... jumpcut to 1995. John Zorn, Derek Bailey on electric guitar and William Parker, from a live set at the Knitting Factory. Free improvisation... interestingly, Parker's bass gives more of an overt 'jazz' feel than is usual for Bailey, coupled to the sax lines of Zorn. Bailey is fairly restrained at first, then as they collectively hot up, he starts dropping flinty shards of guitar and those inimitably crabby fast strummed runs as Parker goes deep and Zorn flies across the top with corrugated buzzing and textural noise– horn and guitar timbrally matched sporadically. This is one of the places the music went to... the wilder side of free improv...

I was intending to put up 'Bitches Brew,' but Savefile seems to have problems - I will try to repost it later...

Stan Getz
(Stan Getz: tenor saxophone; Al Haig: piano; Gene Ramey: bass; Stan Levey: drums).
Crazy Chords


Wardell Gray
(Wardell Gray: tenor saxophone; Al Haig: piano; Tommy Potter: bass; Roy Haynes: drums).


(Miles Davis: trumpet; Bennie Green: trombone; Sonny Stitt: alto saxophone; Serge Chaloff: baritone saxophone; Bud Powell: piano; Curly Russell: bass; Max Roach: Max Roach: drums).


Clifford Brown/Max Roach
(Clifford Brown: trumpet; Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone; Richie Powell: piano: George Morrow: bass: Max Roach: drums).
What is this thing called love? (Alternate take)


George Russell
(George Russell: piano; Eric Dolphy: alto saxophone; Dave Baker: trombone; Don Ellis: trumpet; Steve Swallow: bass; Joe Hunt: drums).


John Zorn/Derek Bailey/William Parker
(John Zorn: alto saxophone; Derek Bailey: electric guitar; William Parker: bass).
Morning Harras


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Stan Getz/J. J. Johnson... Hampton Hawes... Sonny Rollins... John Coltrane... Ornette Coleman...

Stan Getz was always labelled as the epitome of the 'cool school.' Yet there is a funkier edge to his playing – here with the king of bebop trombone, J.J. Johnson, in a live recording of 'My Funny Valentine,' (another one of the Norman Granz concerts from the fifties that the Gillespie/Stitt posts came from) he gives out some archetypal smearing bluesy phrases when he digs in. And also some prime fast blowing - Getz was a master of his instrument. Here, I can track the Lester influence – and also, oddly, I get the ghost of Gerry Mulligan if I imagine the tenor transposed down to baritone range... maybe it's the tune, associated with Mulligan and Chet Baker's classic version. Although – in the early sixties sometime, Mulligan recorded with Getz on tenor as well as his usual horn, he played tenor in the forties before concentrating on baritone - and Getz also swapped to baritone on that session... but maybe Lester is at the back of it all, anyway, for both men... J.J sounds effortlessly fluent, bouncing of the rhythms and rising to the live competitive edge of the occasion. Peterson and the guitar player are fairly inaudible – the backing dominated by the thudding bass and Stan Levy's crisp drums. The front line top it off with some contrapuntal improvising – very west-coasting... On a minor discographical note – a little confusion over the drummer – I've gone for Connie Kay rather than Louis Bellson...

Hampton Hawes was born with six fingers on each hand, apparently – surgically corrected soon afterwards. Hawes was also unusual among modern jazz pianists in that he could not read music... not so unusual: he had a fucked-up life due to various factors but mainly perhaps because of the blight of addiction that put him in jail and disrupted his career. Taken from his album 'The Sermon,' this reading of the old spiritual 'Go Down Moses' has much poignancy... Supported by Vinnegar's solid bass and Stan Levey's understated swing, he lays out a boppish display, spiced with the blues that always lurks not too far away in his playing... the sacred and the profane...

'Blue Seven' is taken from Sonny Rollin's magisterial and correctly named album 'Saxophone Collossus,' recorded in 1956. Doug Watkins strolls in on bass, an easy lope, before Rollins enters and states the theme – an abrupt and enigmatic playing off the old bop tritone substitution, apparently impovised/composed on the spot. His special use of thematic improvisation, spotlighted in the famous Gunther Schuller
article (scroll down ) in Jazz Review, 1958, (which allegedly caused Rollins to take one of his famous sabbaticals), is well displayed here – something he shared with Monk – from where it may have came? Speculations, ah, speculations... But from simple material, Rollins spins complex and coherent music. Flanagan is an elegant player, taking a couple of bluesy choruses, Max heavy on the cymbal back beat. A brief tenor interlude then the drummer solos – playing across that steady cymbal two and four, melodic and disruptively syncopated. Max always solos musically as well as rhythmically – you can hear his melodic flow clearly...

...the other tenor saxophone collossus was, of course (you dispute it?) John Coltrane. Who overshadowed Rollins up to his untimely death in 1967 – and probably for many years after although Rollins longevity and good health have kept him in the game – and still playing as one of jazz's elder statemen with plenty left to say... This is JC with Rashied Ali, playing 'Saturn,' from his late-on album 'Interstellar Space.' Ushered in on drums, a winding spiral when Coltrane comes in and uses the multi-spatial elements of Ali's rhythms to perform an exhasting and relentless journey across the parameters of the tenor – and beyond... per saxophonus ad astra...

So many years to wait for an Ornette Coleman recording – what's going on out there? This is 'Sleep Talking' from 'Sound Grammar,' recorded in Germany by the same band that I saw last year at the Barbican on the same tour. Tony Falanga bows the slow, sad melody over Cohen's pizzicato – bass roles they stick to throughout – then Denardo's bass drum thumps and Ornette comes to state the melody again, shadowed by the basses. A slow unfolding... Cohen solos over Falanga's backing counterpoint – fragments of the theme peeping through - and some rattling percussion from Denardo, in places suggesting a slow, lurching bluesy backbeat. Ornette returns and plays pithily, that inimitably human tone still strongly in place – the epitome of 'vocalised' tone – as he improvises – well, thematically, you would have to call it, as above with Sonny Rollins. As he always did, but in a freer way... The plucked bass speeds things along – on one plane - Ornette's music has always seemed to move on simultaneously different levels at times, leaving him free to float across or lock onto the beat. The audience dug it mightily...

In the Videodrome...

Miles at the Isle of Wight Festival...

...and in Karlsruhe, 1967...

... and playing 'So What' on the Steve Allen show...

Stan Getz/J J Johnson
(Stan Getz: tenor saxophone; J.J. Johnson: trombone; Herb Ellis: guitar; Oscar Peterson: piano; Ray Brown: bass; Conny Kay: drums).
My Funny Valentine


Hampton Hawes
(Hampton Hawes: piano; Leroy Vinnegar: bass; Stan Levey: drums).
Go Down Moses


Sonny Rollins
(Sonny Rollins, ts - Tommy Flanagan, p - Doug Watkins, b - Max Roach, ds )
Blue Seven


John Coltrane
(John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Rashied Ali: drums).


Ornette Coleman
(Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone; Greg Cohen, Tony Falanga: basses; Denardo Coleman: drums).
Sleep Talking


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dizzie Gillespie/Sonny Stitt/Sonny Rollins... Joe Henderson... Ornette Coleman... Albert Ayler... Cecil Taylor...

Back to business...

Dizzie Gillespie made a few of these summit-type albums where the masters gather – here he is in 1957, again with Sonny Stitt and adding Sonny Rollins, playing 'After Hours.'. Ray Bryant down and dirty opens it up... harking back to beyond the dawn of bop with a fragmentary left hand that hints at boogie and laying the blues firmly down before the horns come in – a quick sax sax smear - then muted Gillespie. Essaying in restrained fashion (for Diz, sans the usual pyrotechnics). Rollins gives some throaty choruses. Stitt follows him and wins on points (He was a competive jammer...). Bryant's raw rolling piano holds it all together. One reviewer on Amazon hated it and thought it all rambled aimlessly – to each their own...

Joe Henderson recorded 'State of the Tenor' in 1985, live at the Village Vanguard . That title – a bold statement... Ron Carter leads it in with a frisky intro, then Henderson states the theme, takes it up an octave, decorating it with frilly, almost joky trills. Monk's tune can seem intractable to improvisation as the chords ominously circle over and over... a two bar section of four descending sevenths, G7, F7, Eflat7, D7, repeated to form a sixteen bar theme... a test of will and imagination. With just bass and drums in support, Henderson gives the tune a lighter treatment than the dark humour of the composer's versions and creates room for manoeuvre, spinning off and finding a freedom not obviously embedded in the theme's structure. Aided greatly by Carter who varies his accompaniments away from overstating the relentless repeating chords. Foster subtle in the background, emerging with some splashes of colour and prodding interjections late in. Foster was, of course, a close confidant of Miles Davis and held down the drum chair in his bands for a long stretch from the seventies onwards... Free space here discovered inside the tradition...

Two live ones from Ornette... one with Joachim Kuhn from 1996... the other from The Golden Circle in 1965. The duo track is 'Night Plans,' slowly ushered in by Kuhn's thoughtfully astringent piano. In this unusual environment for Ornette (although he had recorded with pianists, these were fairly rare occurences), he enters and sings out the theme, sparse and achingly bluesy and beautiful. His alto sounds fractionally out to the piano which gives the track a slightly unsettling feel – there can be no true resolution or homecoming. Kuhn returns in more rhapsodic mode, filling in the spaces with rolling, progressively scampering lines in searching interrogation. Ornette returns, spartan over Kuhn's fulsome backing, stretching out eventually into some bouncing interplay with the piano. Ending on a smeared note bent slightly upwards – Ornette going in-between the orthodoxies of harmony to find his own space? Sublime...

'Doughnuts' is from the mighty Golden Circle sessions – bouncing in at a fast lick, this is Ornette with one of his great bands, Izenson and Moffett. So much room here... Moffette holding up a fairly orthodox cymbal beat as the bass grounds it deep. The interplay between these three was revelatory. Ornette spinning out melodies and variations to glory... Compare this trio to Joe Henderson's, twenty years later...

Denmark was a fruitful place for the sixties avant-garde – Albert Ayler recorded this session for radio with the teenage prodigy bass player Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson, Ronnie Gardner on drums and Niels Bronsted on piano, a couple of months after his first album.
The best track – because the piano drops out, who had problems hearing what Ayler was attempting – as did many, then and since, to be fair – is a tribute to Cecil Taylor, whom he had played prior to the recording. 'C.T.' With just bass and drums, less confusion... as they try to follow the American sax visionary. And do a reasonable job. Pederson takes a brief solo and utters a spanish-tinged phrase that Ayler picks up and runs with. Another succesful occurrence of this melodic ball-tossing occurs about eight minutes in... displaying that Ayler is listening closely to his bass player as well as vice versa. Gardner engages in a similar game towards the end, tossing out rhythms that Ayler catches. What sounds like a spurt of 'The Marseillaise' pops up just before the end... A fascinating document of a music in flux, not always successful as the bass and drums struggle at times to figure out the directions. But overall, a brave venture into the new as Ayler proceeds to find his voice and follow his star...

More transitional work... Here is C.T. in 1960, with Buell Neidlinger, Dennis Charles and Archie Shepp playing 'Lazy Afternoon.' Shepp doesn't always sound too comfortable on this album but plays a brave solo here, Cecil almost straight comping at times behind him as they settle into a lurching beat, the bass playing long sections of straight quarter notes, sometimes on one and three. Cecil playing over a standard sequence in the early days is always fascinating – seeing where and how he will smack it out of shape and bend it to his own imperious will.

Dizzie Gillespie/Sonny Stitt/Sonny Rollins
(Dizzie Gillespie: trumpet; Sonny Stitt: alto saxophone; Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone; Ray Bryant: piano; bass: Tommy Bryant; Charlie Persip: drums).
After Hours


Joe Henderson
(Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone; Ron Carter: bass; Al Foster: drums.)
Friday the Thirteenth


Ornette Coleman
(Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone; Joachim Kuhn: piano).
Night Plans


Ornette Coleman
(Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone; David Izenson: bass; Charles Moffett: drums).


Albert Ayler
(Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone; Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson: bass; Ronnie Gardiner: drums).


Cecil Taylor
(Cecil Taylor: piano; Archie Shepp: tenor; Buell Neidlinger: bass; Dennis Charles: drums).
Lazy Afternoon


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Tommy Gun Angels hit town... review of Bardo Pond at the Maze, Nottingham, Thursday 30th November...

A crowded room,buzzing with anticipation. The Maze, on Mansfield Road in Nottingham is one of the better venues in the area, friendly bar staff and enough space to get a reasonable crowd in to cook up an atmosphere without being cavernous or cramped. (Although the envelope was pushed tonight...). Another coup by Damn You to get Bardo Pond here, whose inspired bookings along with other local organisers like Knees Knees have really put this town on the map with regard to the best in contemporary cutting edge musics. Fortified in advance and armed with two Budweisers (no way I was going to battle back to the bar during the set) I had managed to squeeze downfront and to the side (impossible to get front of stage – I arrived too late, just catching the last few minutes of the second support band – Souvaris (?) -they sounded good). I watched with interest the equipment being set-up – a lot of FX pedals for the guitars. Stompbox heaven impending... Then the band took the stage and without much preamble launched into their set. Bardo Pond are – what? A rock band? Sort of – the rhythms start out from rock and their drummer Ed Farnsworth wacks heavily smack dab on the beat when needed to. But he also has the flexibility to mix it up into trickier syncopations that closely track the drift as their long songs mutate and unravel outwards. Again - they work off fairly simple 'rocky' structures – but extend these into improvisations that take you on long and loudly beautiful journeys into the psychedelic sublime - and prove that it's still a viable space to inhabit... So: something more than just a rock band, in iron tune with the strong improvisational ethic that has been running through the musics for some time now, that came from jazz. Maybe something like, to risk an analogy, a customised vehicle with a disguised engine – a rock car with a mighty free jazz engine under the hood... but enough speculations – just to mention that this uncategorisable nature is reflected in the following quote from their bass player:

'Yeah, for the outside we're too inside, and for the inside we're too outside. [But] I just like rock bands, you know what I mean?' (Clint Tekeda, from here...).

Maybe 'rock' has become as problematic a word as 'jazz?'

For all the womped-up electricity and volume, there is also a close attention to light and shade – Isabel Sollenberger's vocals and flute offering timbral variety. I have wondered about this down the years, ever since I first heard the Velvets way back in the sixties. A specifically American music strategy that takes in wild experiments and noise, but oddly rooted even if diagonally/obliquely in popular forms and usually with strong melody coming through at some point out of the electronic/noise stormwaves... maybe (ahem) call it post-modernism? In the interesting rather than banal sense... out of Olson - 'the first literary figure to use the term “post-modern” (preceded only by the historian Arnold Toynbee)' (from here... ) - and other liberators as opposed to the dull thudders of academe... For all the space in the music and the improvisations, they remain a very tight unit, as befits a group who have been living and playing together for so many years. Maybe it's something in the water of Philadelphia where they are based – the home of Sun Ra and John Coltrane, that epic quester who blew out of the walls of jazz in a reverse Jericho manoeuvre to venture wildly beyond. From that Wire interview again:

Clint Takeda: 'But there is a strong history and reverberation in Philly. Like Coltrane, Sun Ra, Lynch, Duchamp.'
Michael Gibbons: 'It's the heart of the enlightenment, you know? It's the heart of democracy.'

The Sun Ra connection – sometime back, Michael Gibbons had been involved in a collaboration with Marshall Allen, the keeper of the Ra flame. Bardo P travel the spaceways too... Yet, despite the exotic sound spaces they inhabit, there's a refreshingly no-messing, no-frills approach to their performance, typified, maybe, by Sollenberger having monitor problems throughout the set (and she seemed a bit low in the mix at times) but not falling into tantrums about it as some would but offering a resigned and graceful acceptance that fuckups unfortunately happen.

Like all great bands, their bottom ground is the platform from which they launch their epic sound adventures – the bass and drums of Clint Takeda and Ed Farnsworth, mightily holding it all together tonight. With Isabel's mysterious vocals and flute at the top, the middle ground is criss-crossed by the two guitars with their masses of FX pedals blasting sonic cloudbursts, whipped across by subtly unobtrusive textural synth/keyboard interjections. Little in the way of audience addressed rock babble – just 'Thankyous' and moving on the the next song. They proved that old (and prescient) Albert Ayler quote, about music now being more about feeling and emotions than notes. And they operate as a democracy, albeit Isobel's frontperson presence (which is admittedly downplayed), the music swelling and breathing as one mighty unit, each individual locking into the broader collective endeavour. The audience went with them all the way, song to song, on a long, strange but defiantly beautiful trip – if you had 'em and smoked 'em it must have been a cosmic blast. I made the journey on Budweiser – and still flew the distance... because The Tommy Gun Angels were in town and firing from the hip - and soaring mightily into the dark provincial night...

As a taster, here they are on MySpace – playing, what else? - 'Tommy Gun Angel.' My favourite song title of the last two years...

And the Wire has an alternative mix of 'Lost Word' from their latest album, 'Ticket Crystals,' here... (Scroll down the side frame...)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I am offline at the moment as my laptop is being repaired and, as is always the way, this is taking slightly longer than planned. So this comes from the local cyber cafe... As I am unable to post any music for another day or so, here is a reminder of some of the extant links... reminder... these are all over 20 mb files and are on Savefile - the majority of mp3s are only up for a week. These long files will be deleted over the coming weeks - so grab them while you can...

Hopefully back ASAP...

Charles Mingus: Cumbia and Jazz Fusion
Roland Kirk: Saxophone Concerto
Cecil Taylor: Serdab
Charlie Parker: What is this thing called love?
Borbetomagus: Side A
Ornette Coleman: Comme Il Faut
Peter Brotzmann: Responsible (First Take)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

St Cecilia's Day tomorrow... Gene Ammons/ Sonny Stitt... Jimmy Smith... Gillespie/Getz/Stitt... Mingus... Coltrane... and more Mingus... today...

Back to the music... last week was an intestinal nightmare which left me totally bolloxed... but I made it to the Club Sporadic gig on Saturday, which, on a freezing cold night, lifted my spirits. Guest band Ego Unit played an intriguing set and we came together and did what we do. Waiting to get the playback to hear whether it was actually as good as it felt at the time...

As my cd drive is buggered and I can't get it fixed until Friday I'm limited to what I can upload for a few days and can't convert any tracks into MP3 either for the same reason – so whatever comes up will be stuff on my hard drive or MP3 player... apparently, tomorrow is St Cecilia's Day, the patron saint of music... for reasons that I have missed/avoided/whatever, it has been declared that today, the 21st, is 'No Music Day'... so, perverse to the end, here's a stack of jazz and assorted musics... we all celebrate in our own ways and this is mine. Happy listening... (This is one of Bill Drummond's gags, anyway...)

So: let's do 'The Shuffle Twist.' Some greasy back beat blues from Gene Ammons, Brother Jack Mc Duff and Sonny Stitt. Does exactly what you think it will do – but does it so well. Ammons has a bearhug of a tone on tenor... Stitt, always unfairly underrated... Brother Jack testifies...

More Hammond, upping the tempo – the redoubtable Jimmy Smith heading up a session of hard blowers on the old Bird classic 'Au Privave.' Smith bubbles up into the first solo, a couple of his trademark funky riffs in there, but, in the main, more linear work, invoking the shade of the composer. A couple of shattering rolls from Blakey, just to spur him on... Lee Morgan, fleet of line. Lou Donaldson, wanders a bit but heart in the right place. Tina Brooks good on tenor... Kenny Burrell always steady and bluesy...

'Dark Eyes' from a session recorded by three early giants of modern jazz, Gillespie, Getz and Stitt (again). The album title flags it up – 'For Musicians Only.' Defiantly elitist... Where bop started, shutting out those who could not negotiate the changes, tempos and rhythms. 1956 was the year after Charlie Parker died and this marks a high watermark, maybe, a summation of all that had gone before. Classy, high octane blowing... Stan Getz off first, belying his 'cool' image – fiery stuff. Followed by Stitt, equally firing strongly - but Diz pips them all, I think. Easy to forget sometimes how good he really was... rapid-fire lines and the odd vocalised smear from the back end of the trumpet timbral history just to remind you where it all came from. A brief solo from John Lewis to remind us that he was there as well before Diz takes it out over the two weaving saxes.

'Ysabel's Table Dance.' The 'Spanish Tinge' with a vengeance... Mingus's 'spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings from emotions recollected,'(from here... scroll down...) no doubt, (but probably not in tranquility) stemming from a trip south of the border, this track supposedly evoking a striptease. Starting with Frankie Dunlop's maraccas, according to the discography, female yips and handclaps from Ysabel Morel and a flamenco-like progression, etched out by bowed bass, the track slowly builds into a wild ride. For a smallish band, they make a lot of noise... Moving in sections like much of Mingus's music – one of his solutions to composing in longer forms - doing the postmodern thang before John Zorn? - Shafi Hadi goes to a straighter jazz interlude in relief to the preceding chaos. Things calm down... An ensemble passage leading back into flamenco and the wildness returns before the bass walks it down steady. Tension and release, tension and release. This was recorded in 1957 but shelved for several years. One wonders at the way history may have been changed if it had come out earlier, pre-figuring much of what was to come... Consider: the preceding Diz/Getz/Stitt track was recorded a year earlier – yet this is conceptually a long way from High Bebop... Arriba...

John Coltrane recorded this version of 'Summertime' in 1960 on the first album his epochal quartet made, 'My Favourite Things.' Taken faster than is usual for this tune, a perfect summation of where he was artistically at that moment – the sheets of sound wrapped so tightly that one can now see/hear why he had to explode beyond into new spaces. A perfect snapshot... the tenor playing is immense, overpowering in its grandeur... but I'm a fan. Tyner plays a superb solo, still sure of his ground at this part of the game, followed by Steve Davis – fleet and melodic - and Elvin, soloing over Davis's bass accompaniment before Coltrane returns for another quick blast. A superb track... St Cecilia will dig this...

Late Mingus, 1977: Cumbia and Jazz Fusion, part one... opening on bird-song and flutes over a sparse drum off-beat and chanting... Mingus meets the rain forest? Percussion: latin meets african – the global music thing... until a strong bass vamp appears... instrument call and response over the simple tune, switching textures and sections... finally the band come powering in, odd echoes of Diz and his Afro-Cuban thing? Throaty tenor solo...A third of the way in, the tempo slows, rhapsodic piano from Bob Neloms, swirling across the keyboard, then a waggish trombone heralds an oddly corny bass vamp – muted trumpets and trombones converse, the rhythm building relentlessly like a train, the horns slowing again half-time – another tempo shift – the drums and percussion have it and ride for a while. Orchestra returns – then Mingus sings: 'Who says momma's little baby likes shortning bread... momma's little baby likes... caviar... diamond mines...Freedom!!' You get the idea... Mingus comes up for a solo, as the band tread water - lines that range across the whole range of the bass, a late laying down of markers, sadly... return of band... then Knepper solos, his usual gruff fluency, followed by piano again, this time more single line in the pocket... ensemble, then the bass weaving in and out to a fade...

A superbly wacky track, really...

In the Videodrome...

Coltrane in 1963...

Some Mingus...

Ornette dances with your head...

Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt/Jack McDuff
(Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt (ts) Brother Jack McDuff (org) Charlie Persip (d)).
Shuffle Twist


Jimmy Smith
(Lee Morgan (tp) Lou Donaldson (as) Tina Brooks (ts) Jimmy Smith (org) Kenny Burrell (g) Art Blakey (d)).
Au Privave


Dizzy Gillespie/Sonny Stitt/Stan Getz
(Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet); Stan Getz (tenor saxophone); Sonny Stitt (alto saxophone); John Lewis (piano); Herb Ellis (guitar); Ray Brown (bass); Stan Levey (drums)).
Dark Eyes


John Coltrane
(John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner: piano; Steve Davis: bass; Elvin Jones: drums).


Charles Mingus
(Charles Mingus: bass; Clarence Shaw: trumpet; Shafi Hadi: alto saxophone; Jimmy Knepper: trombone; Bill Triglia: piano: Danny Richmond: drums; Frankie Dunlop: castanets; Ysabel Morel: vocals, handclaps).
Ysabel's Table Dance


Charles Mingus
(Jack Walrath (tp) Jimmy Knepper (tb, btb) Mauricio Smith (fl, picc, ss, as) Paul Jeffrey (ob, ts) Gene Scholtes (basn) Gary Anderson (cbcl, bcl) Ricky Ford (ts) Bob Neloms (p) Charles Mingus (b, South American rhythm inst., vo, arr) Dannie Richmond (d) Candido, Daniel Gonzales, Ray Mantilla, Alfredo Ramirez (cga) Bradley Cunningham, Ricky Ford, Jack Walrath (South American rhythm inst.)
Cumbia and Jazz Fusion


Monday, November 20, 2006

The Mike Westbrook Village Band at the Queen Elisabeth Hall, Friday, 10 November... a review...

This first night free gig in the Front Room at the Queen Elisabeth Hall on the first night of the 2006 London Jazz Festival had brought out the crowd... when I got there in what I had falsely assumed was plenty of time to grab a beer and a good seat, I realised that plan A was out the window... all the best seats had gone. So I acquired a drink and found a reasonable vantage point to lean on, at a diagonal on the sight-line from the stage. Luckily I am long-sighted... I could see the band OK and hear most of the music fine – apart from some conflicting sounds from the coffee machine forward left of me – an interesting degree of aleatoric noise which started to became irritating eventually. Mercifully the coffee drinkers were keeping their consumption down tonight. Hooray for alcohol... Also, when Kate Westbrook took vocals, I couldn't make out the words too well... but... on y va...

Mike Westbrook: One of the great composer/bandleaders, he has worked with a bewildering diversity of lineups and projects down the years. On an intersecting synchronicity, the book I had been reading on the train was Iain Sinclair's new work on John Clare, 'Edge of the Orison.' Which caused me to remember the Westbrook album 'The Cortege' and my two favourite tracks - the stunning version of Clare's 'Toper's Rant.' And the New Orleans march on the same set – 'Free as a bird.' Between those two poles – of the poet of rural England and the roots of early jazz – taking in the European influences of art song and cabaret, doubling back into the English music hall and the complex soundworlds of contemporary jazz... there you will maybe find this concert situated. Which sounds portentous – but the performance certainly was not, done with a firm but light touch. The Village Band essayed two suites – 'All that jazz' which was a celebration of jazz composition and song from Joplin to Monk, via Jelly Roll Morton, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, Tadd Dameron and Bessie Smith and 'The Waxeywork Show' – an original work from the Westbrooks melding Kate's lyrics to Mike's setting, making a comparison between a Victorian fairground and the present day internet. These were split up, situating the 'Waxeywork' in the middle of the set, book-ended by the homage to jazz...

The Village Band lineup is: tenor horn, euphonium, trumpet, trombone, alto and tenor saxophones. They started with (I think) Morton's 'Dead Man Blues.' A warm deep sound – the euphonium and tenor horn giving a generous sonority and depth. No rhythm section – which allows a certain freedom to float these pieces on – albeit within certain necessary idiomatic constraints of tempo and rhythmic nuance. This makes it easier for the older pieces to work effectively – it avoids the polar risks of being too clumpy or too polyrhythmic. A clever selection – 'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat' leading into Charles Mingus's 'Jelly Roll Soul,' that affectionate homage to the (arguably) first great jazz composer – a doubling back which signifies the movement here in acoustic space to clear a temporary ground where these pieces can exist, the old against the new. I actually preferred this version - never having liked the Mingus original, too clumsy I always felt, despite the genuine feeling. It can be awkward to play in older idioms – if you have a wide palette of instrumental techniques available as most modern musicians obviously do, how far can you bend the older form before it breaks and the precarious balance is detroyed? The Mingus recording always comes across to me as hokum because it seems to my heretic ear that no one is exactly sure of what to play... The soloists in these pieces managed to negotiate their way through by playing well within themselves – and avoiding pastiche. (No slap-tonguing saxes...) Also, a more general point: certain jazz timbres will cut across the stylistic divides, so the more vocalised trumpet and trombone effects, for example, can work at a point where the avant-garde/contemporary concern with sound links with some older jazz techniques.

The audience was responding well and with much obvious affection... at various points I was waiting for someone to start jiving, given the age of many in the crowd... traditional jazz is embedded deep in the UK popular cultural heritage. Memories of older purist wars poked amusingly through as I had the impish yet nostalgic thought that it would be hilarious if someone suddenly unfurled a banner with 'Go home dirty bebopper' (scroll down for hilarious story) emblazoned on it when one of the saxes took a solo...

The new work being premiered was 'The Waxeywork Show.' Embedded in the middle so that the second section of 'All that jazz' took the gig out. An interesting progression – rather than a straight line, a steady circling outwards and back which seems to be the spatial metaphor that describes this performance best – into the more modern and astringent textures of 'Waxeyworks,' the knowing theatricality and ventriloquism of Kate Westbrook being featured now... the Art/Cabaret Song up front... music sharpening, becoming harmonically denser, rhythmically more complex, the soloing freer, unleashed from the constraints of more traditional jazz. Dissonance more explicit now... and seesawing rhythms to match the visions of the Victorian fairground? Missing most of the lyrics, as already mentioned, I just responded to the sound, which included a beautiful long, written section – although I caught this line: 'Welcome to the show that never ends, that leads you on and on...' This comparison between the 19th century fairground and the contemporary internet sounds intriguing. And also operates as reinforcing the linkage with of past and present, which seems to be the theme of the night... I also caught a reference to that late Victorian A-Lister Jack the Ripper... Always something contemporary about Jack, the spurious romanticising of the serial killer... Kate Westbrook uses her wide-ranging vocal technique to conjure up different characters, at one point evoking the meta-babble of the Net in channelling conversational American voices against the splendidly sonorous backdrop of her husband's orchestration. I hope to hear this work again so I can get a clearer grasp of its wider message...

Maybe the economics of the business dictate small ensembles – I love to hear the really BIG band sounds of Westbrook – but this can also facilitate much cunning and invention. An old jazz pastime – writing for a band to make it seem bigger than its parts... so, into the last third...

... 'All that jazz' redux... more looping through jazz time – going from Tadd Dameron's 'If you could see me now' sung in more conventional jazz style now by Kate to her roaring version of an old Bessie Smith blues via Monk – a superb version of 'Monk's Mood' which could almost have been written for this lineup (with a faint echo perhaps of 'Abide with me' scored for horns only on 'Monk's Music' – that would have been an interesting hymnal segue), Duke Ellington, of course, going out on the stately gait of Scott Joplin. Where much of the music came from originally...

Last thoughts – a great gig. An ensemble evening, but all the solists acquitted themselves well and within the spirit of their material. This was warm music, warmly received by the crowd. 'All that Jazz' referenced the wide spectrum from ragtime to Monk - but intelligently – this wasn't some trad/mainstream 'Tribute to ...' warhorse... the new work was firmly in the long-established Westbrook tradition of going out beyond jazz to bring in elements of variety/music hall and European art/cabaret song spiced with political astringencies – featuring Kate Westbrook's lyrics and her unique voice, not always loved by all, an acquired taste, perhaps (which I acquired a long time back) that has a range encompassing early classic blues to the concert hall and beyond via the jazz vocal mainstream. Just good fun for the opening night? Much more, I think... The Village Band conceit is subtle – using a rural English metaphor and the brass band sound to give American jazz a local setting without compromising the performance via misplaced pastiche and placing old favourites into a new orientation. Both strange and familiar at the same time and a process that is possibly more experimental than it seems on the surface... playing games with time to displace the linear in favour of the loop and the circle? I had another attack of whimsy later on, when an image of some West Coutry summer fete came into mind complete with bandstand and Westbrooks riffing away as the Morris dancers got it on and some retainer coming to the bandstand for a request: 'Squire presents his compliments, Mr W, and asks if you know any Ornette Coleman?' 'No problem, Mr Hudson – “Lonely Woman” in B flat, lads, easy on the harmolodics, Squire's good lady is a bit delicate... one two three...'

But it's getting late... Enough...

The lineup of the Village Band:
Mike Brewer - trumpet
Kate Westbrook - tenor horn/vocals
Sam Smith - trombone
Mike Westbrook - euphonium
Stan Willis - alto saxophone
Gary Bayley - tenor saxophone

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Still in recovery... another holding pattern... Teddy Charles, Art Farmer/Jim Hall... Roland Kirk...

Slowly surfacing from illness... what a week... Hoping to get the promised reviews on track today or tomorrow at the's another few holding tracks... the usual disparate bunch...

First up: the Teddy Charles Quartet, from 1956 (the album says this and the larger band sessions that comprise it were recorded in 1957 but the Charles discography gives the earlier year). 'Just one of those things.' Bouncing, joyous and swinging, more straight ahead playing than the vibist is probably known for ( as a lost legend of the fifties experimental underground), yet splendidly oblique in the opening choruses, almost avoiding the theme. Although Charles made his bones early on in the mainstream, starting out with Chubby Jackson's band in the 40s (and within six months was playing with Max Roach)... Overton worked with Monk, arranging material famously for the Monk at Town Hall concert – here, he comps solidly in the background, nothing fancy. Mingus takes a flowing, fast solo and Shaughnessy holds the back line.

Art Farmer and Jim Hall recorded the classic 'Whisper Not' in 1978 . (Whose composer, Benny Golson, the trumpeter/flugelhornist had worked with so famously in the Jazztet). A longish track with plenty of space for the two men to stretch out – similar takes on improvisation... Farmer had worked in a variety of situations in the fifties from straight ahead blowing to experimental work – especially with the aforementioned Teddy Charles - always a fluent, intelligent player with a warmhearted style spiked with advanced harmonic knowledge – a good description maybe of Hall as well. Mainieri solos and points out the disparate timbres that had evolved between 1956 Charles and this session either by better instrumental amplification or recording technniques or a combination of both– the vibes seem warmer, less detached, more resonant.

Opening with a train whistle, that archetypal American aural signifier of movement, (in the African-American tradition, signifying an even more complex mixture of hope and loss, perhaps, with the great twentieth century movements/evacuations from the South), then brass whoops, strings and voice: kicking into rhythm as the Kirk tenor comes irrepressibly (a word coined for Roland) out of the traps – a tumultuous workout for 21 minutes of almost non-stop blowing – crashing cymbals like dustbin lids, orchestral interjections that he rides off and through... onwards, onwards – a mash-up of styles/genres that makes Third-Stream look and sound remarkably tame in comparison... a train steaming through breaks off the first section... slowing down in serpentine lines accompanied by sparse piano then a ridiculous oompah, Kletzmer-ish section – although Kirk breaks free soon enough of the four-square rhythm to fly over it every which way... wonder if John Zorn ever heard this? Third section: more conventional jazz as the band come back in – wild blowing – he's still going strong – a ripping trumpet heralds a free section where everything swirls like a dust cloud... everything but the kitchen sink thrown into the muddy mix – then his whistle signals a partial halt – train chugging back to finally steam to a finish... a wild ride...

Usual caveat - the Kirk track may not pick up on Hype Machine as it's very long and on another download to the other two...

Teddy Charles Quartet
(Teddy Charles: vibes; Hall Overton: piano; Charles Mingus: bass; Ed Shaughnessy: drums).
Just one of those things


Art Farmer/Jim Hall
(Art Farmer: flugelhorn; Jim Hall: guitar; Mike Mainieri: vibes; Mike Moore: bass; Stev Gadd: drums)
Whisper Not


Rahsaan Roland Kirk
(Charles McGhee (tp) Dick Griffin (tb) Harry Smiles (ehr, ob) Rahsaan Roland Kirk (ts, cl, fl, nose fl, pipes, E flat sax) Sanford Allen, Julien Barber, Selwart Clarke, Gayle Dixon (vln) Al Brown (vla) Kermit Moore (vlc) Ron Burton (p) Henry Mattathias Pearson (b) Robert Shy (d) Sonny Brown or Ralph MacDonald (per) Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jeanne Lee (vo) ).

Saxophone concerto


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

All is flux... illness... delays... and Paul Dunmall Octet... Pinski Zoo

Everything this week is in flux... an appropriate word, given the fact that I have been laid mightily low with a virulent stomach complaint since sunday evening... so the planned review of Mike Westbrook/Marc Ribot will be delayed, unfortunately, along with a couple of other posts I had planned. Here's a holding action, two British bands led by two tenor players...

Paul Dunmall
is a longtime favourite of mine. On this track recorded in 2000, 'Part Five,' he leads his octet (plus John Adams on guitar), taking solo honours with Paul Rutherford.

Pinski Zoo
came out of Nottingham, just up the road:

'Back in the 80s, Nottingham-based group Pinski Zoo arrived like a breath of fresh air on the revitalised British jazz scene. With the energy and values of punk rock, their amalgam of funk and fusion with harmolodic-inspired free jazz was unpredictable and unprecedented...Co-founder and saxophonist Jan Kopinski not only gave (part of) his name to the band, he was also its driving force, winning plaudits for his own individual style of playing.' (Taken from here... )

This is the title track from the 1993 album 'De-Icer.' Harmolodic, funky, crashing backbeats...

Now, sadly, back to bed...

Paul Dunmall Octet
(Paul Dunmall, Simon Picard: tenor saxophones; Paul Rutherford, Hilary Jeffries: trombones; Gethin Liddington: trumpet;Keith Tippett: piano; John Adams: guitar; Paul Rogers: bass; Tony Levin: drums).
Part Five


Pinski Zoo
(Jan Kopinski: tenor saxophone; Karl Bingham: Electric Bass; Steve Iliffe: synthesizers, samplers; Steve Harris: drums).


Saturday, November 11, 2006

London Jazz Festival... Opening night... Mike Westbrook... Marc Ribot and Spirtual Unity... Friday November 10, 2006...

Up to town for the Marc Ribot gig and the earlier Mike Westbrook show... have to say it was all good... a longer review to follow... apologies for the photos - my damn camera has not recovered from being dropped but I have more on my mobile phone when I re-install the software to download it... on second thoughts, the images have a bluesy, blurry feel... art, anyone?

The Westbrook show was in the Front Room at the QEH, packed already by the time I got there and fought through to the bar... I hadn't realised that it was the opening night of the festival but good to see such a crowd - the eistedfod off to a warm and mellow start as Westbrook's Village Band performed old jazz classics from the book (Morton, Mingus, Ellington, Joplin and a beautiful rendition of TM's 'Monk's Mood.') Plus Kate Westbrook's smoky vocals on Tadd Dameron's 'If you could see me now,' an old Bessie Smith blues snorter plus a new piece: 'The Waxeywork Show.' More on this ...

Marc Ribot and band were awesome - rough and ragged in places but playing at a sustained level of energy for nearly two hours (including the lengthy encore). Henry Grimes looked well and gave out some power bass... Ribot played serrated guitar, Chad Taylor drumming was supple and strong - and Roy Cambell on trumpet, pocket trumpet and flugelhorn was brassily sharp. More on this as well...

A great opening - hope to get back to town next friday for the Evan Parker gig and another Ribot lineup... if energy permits...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Free ticket... for Marc Ribot at the London Jazz Festival, Friday,November 10th...

A late shout... but I have a spare FREE ticket for tomorrow night's gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank, London - the Marc Ribot gig (with Henry Grimes)... Friday, 10th November... if anyone wants it... email me before midday tomorrow (Friday)... and the first up can collect it from me at the gig... I'll be there early as I'm going to see the Mike Westbrook set from 5.45 pm onwards... mobile number can be supplied by email for co-ordination etc...

Repeat performance... review of Kim Gordon's 'Perfect Partner' at the Barbican, 2nd October, 2005...

I have only just discovered that some more of my older reviews went missing due to snarl-ups on the Plexus site a while back... here's a repeat of my take on the Kim Gordon show at the Barbican last October, 2005 - which has just seen its American debut a couple of weeks back on October 27/28 at Montclair State University. Here's one review of that performance... which wasn't as enthusiastic as mine... offered in the cause of balance...

So... more adventures in the American Sublime... onwards...

I had a seat in the front row of the balcony which offered a panoramic view... appropriate for a performance which attempts such a wide, sweeping mix of image and music. Which is Kim Gordon's film 'Perfect Partner,' made in collaboration with video artist Tony Oursler and filmmaker Phil Morrison. Starring Michael Pitt and Jamie Bochert with a live, improvised soundtrack from a star band comprising Gordon on bass and vocals, Jim O' Rourke, Tim Barnes on percussion, Ikue Mori on laptop, DJ Olive laptop and turntables and tonight only, Thurston Moore. Some pit band... DJ Olive set it rolling with swooshing samples overlaid with muted trumpet and flute, culminating in a cutting up of a recorded voice... I missed the exact beginning when the full band arrived on stage as I had a quick run to the toilets and just squeaked back in as they started (a coupleof hours in the 'Rising Sun' down the road and an ageing bladder...)

The idea for the film takes off from Gordon's love of car ads and the idealised life depicted in them – dreams that feed symbiotically off the dreams of movement and escape that underpin what I see as 'the American Sublime...' filtered back through to this English space I belong to and as I run with it from the encapsulation in the Olson phrase: 'I take SPACE to be the defining factor for man born in America.' Or woman, Charles... (My apologies for dragging this in yet again – but it seems apposite... and everyone has their obsessions...) Kim Gordon glosses her work thus:

“I've always been fascinated by that movement to escape history, westward, towards the setting sun." (Kim Gordon quoted from here...).

'To escape history' – And stasis? By movement in dream cars into the SPACE of America... The story is briefly this: a guy who is apparently searching for his mother goes into a car showroom and a girl tries to sell him a car. They go for a test drive – and keep on going. We are back on the old Lost Highway, encountering a couple of noir-ish characters, (a fat, pimp-like figure whom the girl shoots – some back-story hinted at), another maybe being killed (the Shepard-ish cowboy, topped apparently by two men, who turns up again at the end) until they reach the coast and the ocean, where the film ends on images of rippling water abstracted into shimmering shapes on the screen. So it's a road movie of sorts which bounces lightly off Godard, among others... At the beginning, the man (Michael Pitt) is carrying a book with western imagery prominantly displayed on the cover and there are some intercut shots from old Remington-esque paintings, referencing the Old West... (the book was, I think, 'The West that was,' by John E. Eggen, a collection of old photographs from the frontier). Seems a simple enough and familiar story? I suppose so. But it's in the telling is the fascination... Utilising two screens, one behind the band, the other in front, the perspective shifts continually as the music responds in real time. At various points, band members are visually 'sampled' and appear on screen, meshing the performance deeper into the film narrative. By the end of the journey, I felt that I had witnessed a unique spectacle – a performance that rolls and wraps round itself, incorporating all the elements of moving image, figures on a stage whose music comments upon the filmic action even as it incorporates aspects of the performance in the visual sampling. Seamlessly integrating music, the occasional vocal and visuals in a sure-footed dance. And, it was, I thought, brilliant. At the end, as the images of water rippled on the screen, the band hot-footed it off stage as the audience applauded when they realised that it was over. Not for long: no one seemed sure how to respond. Well, this is England, chaps - but it seemed a slightly desultory note to end on – I suppose that the usual live gig rituals had been subverted - after all, when a movie ends, the actors – or the musicians responsible for the soundtrack, rather - don't usually step out of the screen and take a bow – unless you're watching 'Hellzappoppin' or some such... If Gordon and company had come back on, you could figure that people would start shouting for an encore or something – which would have probably screwed and skewed the mood of the previous hour and more... Maybe this was more fun – not knowing what to do...

The music was great, a level of improvised performance pretty much what you would expect from the stellar line up. Couldn't make out the vocals too well, but it didn't matter... the overall sound was integral to the concept. Very much a group performance. And one with the necessary SPACE inside it to expand and match the imagery and myth in the film. Improvisation in this context seems the true musical response... The Barbican did them proud, I thought, a good venue for Gordon and co's creations. Now, I want to see it again – but it's on at places a long way from where I am at present. Maybe I should go on a road trip to track it down. But we don't do that sort of thing very well here. It can be a nightmare (and not an interesting one, usually) to try to cross the UK east-west or the reverse – but you run out of SPACE pretty quickly and end up in the Irish, North Sea or the Channel. The English Sublime is a different bugger – one that is usually more cramped and crabby. Maybe up in the Lakes – but when I went looking for that variant a couple of years back, via the horrors of post-industrial Lancashire – foot and mouth had closed it off. This night, I ended up in the hotel surrounded by drunks singing along with one of the truly awesomely BAD bar bands of all time, running through a grubby selection of Oirish diddley-dee and bizarrely juxtaposed Sixties hits – 'American Pie' slams into 'I'm a Believer' into 'Mustang Sally' back to a couple of outtakes from St Paddy's night, for God's sake, which all da young folk there seemed not only to know by heart but to take to their hearts. It was either totally shite or some bizarre post-modern joke... funny either/both way – but you had to be there to appreciate it, as they say... A couple of Budweisers loosened me but I wisely in the end declined the gambit that this part of the evening offered... went to bed and dreamed of escaping into the Sublime...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Jug and Dodo... Oliver Nelson... Art Tatum/Ben Webster/Louis Bellson... Andrew Hill... Cecil Taylor...

'You're driving me crazy'... Marmarosa swings lightly in... then Ammons brusquely blats out the tune. As good an example of the way jazz works as you will find – stripping the melody to the bones before commencing an exploration and expansion of the song's innards and possibilities. The pianist takes over, an assured, articulate performance ranging over the keyboard and ending in some discreet block-chording that allows the bass through before Ammons returns to signal some exchanges with the drummer until the saxophone takes it out. Ammons, of course, the incomparable 'Jug,' son of barrelhouse/boogie player Albert Ammons and one of the best tenors out of bebop. Marmarosa: a white bebop legend who flared briefly across the forties – noted especially for his recordings with Artie Shaw and later Charlie Parker - and disappeared back to Pittsburgh after an unhappy hitch with the military in the early fifties. This session was a rare surfacing, recorded in Chicago,1962. Marmarosa was a player who bridged the gap from swing to bop successfully, yet:

'[he was]a gentle and fragile man who never really learned to cope with the pressures of jazz life, but... also given to unpredictable behaviour. According to [Charlie] Barnet, he once pushed a piano off a balcony, and explained that he wanted to hear what chord it would sound when it landed.' (From here...). Cool...

Oliver Nelson made several records with Eric Dolphy, including the stone classic 'Blues and the Abstract Truth.' This is 'Alto-itis' from 'Screaming the Blues,' an odd mixture of post- Bird and hard bop/soul jazz. Dolphy wheels and flies on the first solo, skittering lines that sound a conceptional light year from the riff backing that suddenly blasts in towards the end – like a jam-session head. Nelson, calmer, cooler, more conventional. But something appealing about his playing. That riffing blasts back in... Wyands spins a skilful chorus before the two altos head on out. Williams oddly only plays backup on this track... Booting along joyfully...

Andrew Hill, and 'Flea Flop' taken from his album 'Judgement!' A quartet with Bobby Hutcherson, the vibes giving a cerebral edge, up first, spurred on by the wonderful Davis and Elvin Jones's always probing drums. Davis takes a mobile, expressive solo, fast flurries in all registers. Hill cascades into his solo, double-timing and bouncing the rhythms round. Jones takes over, expressive and rumbling polyrhythms before the ensemble ends. This music is contained by its form and genre – but only just, Hill playing his inside/game to perfection here.

Art Tatum was a consummate soloist, of course. But he made some fascinating records with other musicians – here with Benny Carter and Louis Bellson. An easy ride into the theme by solo piano before the alto and fairly understated drums join in at the second chorus. Carter - finely-honed elegance with a smear of the blues in unexpected places, understated power – one of the great alto players. Tatum takes up the game – the usual trade-mark easy swing and virtuoso runs that disrupt and suspend it. A fairly sudden ending. Is this what they mean by 'timeless?'

To end – another mercurial pianist... yes, here's Cecil (again!)... but according to the hits these tracks are popular so...

From 'Serdab' – an almost restrained beginning, successive waves of ensemble and piano – one always separates the two, despite the grammar, it's always band AND Cecil. Raphe Malik clear and cutting, the violin adding an extra textural dimension, Lyons hanging back at first. Some almost bluesy licks from Cecil about five minutes in. Shannon Jackson makes his presence felt with some rumbling bass drum bombs although he sounds a little buried in the mix (along with Sirone). Despite the usual Taylor pyrotechnical crash and scrabble, quite a melodic track, with plenty of breathing space due to the episodic, processional nature of its unfolding...

Gene Ammons/Dodo Marmarosa
(Gene Ammons: Tenor Saxophone; Dodo Marmorosa: piano; Sam Jones: bass; Marshall Thompson: drums).
You're driving me crazy


Oliver Nelson
(Oliver Nelson, Eric Dolphy: alto saxophones; Richard Williams: trumpet; Richard Wyands: piano; George Duvivier: bass; Roy Haynes: drums).


Art Tatum
(Art Tatum: piano; Benny Carter: alto saxophone; Louis Bellson: drums)
I'm left with the blues in my heart


Andrew Hill
(Andrew Hill: piano; Bobby Hutcherson: vibes; Richard Davis: bass; Elvin Jones: drums).
Flea flop


Cecil Taylor Unit
(Jimmy Lyons: alto saxophone; Raphe Malik: trumpet; Ramsey Ameen: violin; Sirone: bass; Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums).