Saturday, January 28, 2006

Tenor Madness... Rollins, Coltrane and more Coltrane...

Yet more Coltrane – I have my obsessions... Two book ends almost – a blowing session with Sonny Rollins from 1956 and a track from the wild 'Live in Seattle' sessions dated 1965. Some people like early Trane, others late Trane, some in the middle. I like them all. The fascination maybe is to track the route he travelled from bebop to fire music. An amazing journey which still fascinates and grabs.
'Tenor Madness' is a blues riff vehicle for some good blowing. Coltrane exploratory, Rollins easy bouncing. Plus the ever-admirable Miles Davis rhythm section: Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. Two tenor solos and swapping fours later on. Plus the usual Garland rippling magic – a pianist I really like, with a bright-eyed sparkle to every solo. Chambers on bass – ditto – smooth as ever. Philly Joe plays with his always limber swing and sharpness. I can remember some of the old school jazz critics from way back writing that these blowing sessions were too long – raised on the medium-necessary succintness of the 3 minute 78. For me the time passes too soon. Given the historic nature of this session – the only time they played together on recordt- tenor madness? Well... not really. If you are thinking in terms of bop/hard bop, you would go to Johnny Griffin and Lockjaw Davis, for instance. Rollins was the more established player, but Coltrane certainly does not sound lagging or country cousinish. Within ten years... Rollins went into retreat, allegedly as a reaction to Coltrane's magisterial rise (who knows the real story?). And Coltrane was pouring out pure molten fire like...

...'Live in Seattle:' legendary scorching with Pharoah Sanders. For me, Sanders, a good player, never transcended his time with the Coltrane band, never consistently played at such peaks again. Audience applause, bass in, then strumming underneath a tentative horn chorale slowly building – Donald Garrett added to Sanders and the rest of the quartet – Tyner, Elvin Jones and Garrison. But no piano and drums at the beginning – which reminds me of a couple of Albert Ayler tracks, a squiggly high horn line almost emulating the strings in someof his bands – Michael Sampson et al.. Like some weird chamber music cross with New Orleans collective funkiness. The horns start to duel going strongly into a helter skelter conversation. This also demonstrates how a large part of the Coltrane 'sound,' especially late Trane, is rooted in the boiling rhythms of the drummers – Jones and later Rashied Ali – together and separately – that he bounced off so mightily. The horns drop out and leave Garrison to play one of his 'guitarry' solos – fast, thoughtful and melodic strumming. When the piano and drums kick in after this solo – to prove my point - the energy levels shift perceptively. Tyner drops out fairly quickly – as usual – and the drums start to really dig in – and dig in more and more behind Coltrane's long, searching solo. Weird cries and grunts:'Woooaah' Then into free collective horns freakout. Tyner edges back in – hey, I'm still here, boys! His instrument is a bit 'pub piano-y' but recorded clearly. An inspired two-fisted solo, rhapsodic and powerful – back into more collective blowing that starts to lift you to impossible realms before slowly winding down – and out on a piano trill and applause that sounds distant – as if the audience were too wrung out to clap too loudly. Majestic – and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Leaving you breathless and exhilarated.

Yeah, it's 35 minutes long. So what? To borrow a Miles tune...


Tenor Madness





Monday, January 23, 2006

More Coltrane...

John Coltrane from 1958 - a perkily tender reading of 'Time after Time' with a solid Red Garland solo thrown in. Garland had a bounce to his playing I always found infectious. Trane is playing within the boundaries of the tune here – but his tone is wonderful, that keening, sad edge giving the flavour of melancholy. For all the fury and fire, it is interesting to see how much of Coltrane's music has been marketed as 'Smooth Jazz,' 'Jazz for lovers,' etc... something about the man's tenor that speaks to many.

'Stardust' – add Wilbur Harden on flugelhorn. An elegant player, not as well known as he should be – long gone into the backroads of jazz obscurity- unfortunately. A long, rambling take on the Hoagy Carmichael tune with an arco solo from Paul Chambers. The flugelhorn added to Coltrane and the Davis rhythm section gives this a slightly off-kilter mirroring of the Miles Davis band of the time.


Time after time



Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cecil Taylor...redux...

Cecil Taylor... redux...

Fiery swinging stuff... Cecil Taylor's early work repays attention. The rhythm section is bebop orthodox almost – but listen to his piano tearing chromatic chunks out of the tracks here. The first, 'EB', a trio with Dennis Charles and Buell Neidlinger. The second: 'Excursion on a wobbly rail' (with strong Ellington overtones), add Earl Griffiths on vibes, whose cool, spinning lines counterpoise perfectly with Taylor's piano. As he advances into his solo, Cecil plays figures behind him that have a flavour of Monk behind Milt Jackson on the seminal Blue Note recordings of the late forties. Whatever happened to Griffiths? A question asked many times down the years. There is a tension admittedly, between the other musicians and Taylor's more advanced conception but I find it fascinating - hearing him playing off the almost conventional rhythms, it's as if they slow him down enough so that you can hear the bare bones of the later style. Having said that - he rocks out on 'EB' - smashing left hand chords and a right hand like a storm wind. These tracks throw much light on the denser and rhythmically freer works to come. Although they are pretty torrid performances by any standards. This is music of its time, probing and pointing beyond its time and... ahead of its time. A definition of classic, maybe...





Excursion on a wobbly rail


Monday, January 16, 2006

Coltrane and Cannonball... Miles and Coltrane...

A quick one – Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley playing 'Wabash' – effectively the Miles Davis group without the Prince of Darkness, recorded in Chicago 1959. Cannonball a bit back in the mix with Jimmy Cobb to the fore. Then Coltrane, up front and cutting straight through. Cannon was a great and maybe underrated player, Coltrane enjoying himself here, relatively angst-free. Classy piano from Wynton Kelly, fluent nimbly plucked bass from Paul Chambers. A fun track, bouncing along for 5.45 mins.

Le tout ensemble: the Davis Group in full tilt, live from on 'So What' from 1960 – Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, Coltrane and Miles. Coltrane boiling through, playing long, dense looping lines: you can feel the paradigms bending. Inspired solo from Kelly.





Miles Davis Quintet with John Coltrane


So what(mp3)


A quiet skill... Gren Morris and Sam Stephens at the Pack... Friday 13 Jan 2006...

Friday night, there is always a session at the Pack Horse, run by the inimitable Frank Marmion and his new gang: In Any Order. Arrived, scored a double vodka with lime and soda top up – off to the music. Which proved to be... brilliant. I had forgotten that they had a duo booked so was expecting the usual jam – which can be curate's eggish sometimes – but it usually takes off, either in a familiar or non-familiar direction – the ease of the old, the jolt of the new or something. There were a couple of new faces and new voices – mainly unaccompanied stuff but well sung. Then as I was easing into another double vodka the duo got up. Gren Morris vocals and Sam Stephens guitar and vocals. Some material can defeat the singer because they try too hard for an accent or dialect which is not natural to them in their efforts to enter the core of the song. We all know what I'm saying here... well, anyone who ever attended a folk session over the past decades. We jolly ploughboys and miners... well, we're not actually, at this long remove from the industrial revolution, which is often the problem – romanticising of a dead age. Or bending into an uncomfortable vocal trajectory in an attempt to interpret Americana old and new. But Gren Morris here sang in a full yet understated way, closely followed by interesting guitar from Sam Stephens that flowed with the songs rather than clawhammering them into a straitjacket. (And reminded me at odd points of a continental performer such as George Brassens...) The repertoire was incredibly varied and obviously well considered: no wild rovers need cavort among the wild mountain thyme tonight as the guns thunder yet again over the Somme...

Starting with 'Lake Ponchartrain,' performed with elegance. Onto 'Matt Ireland' which I haven't heard for a long time. And done well again. 'The Flash Lad,' another favourite of mine, introduced as 'Gangsta Rap' from way back. Which is pretty funny – and also pretty accurate when you think about it. A song by Cyril Tawney, 'The Drunken Sailor,' that I have never heard to my knowledge - which surprised me because as Al Pacino says in 'Scent of a Woman,' “I've been around, you know...” A droll song, sung a cappella – loaded with that shot of realism that made Tawney such a great songwriter. Which led neatly into Kipling's great Barrack Room Ballad: 'Tommy Atkins.' Kipling has long been out of fashion in the academic literary culture although there are signs his star is on the rise again. But he was resurrected in the folk world some time back by several seminal settings and performances of the Barrack Room Ballads – notably by Pete Bellamy in the 1970's - somewhat surprisingly maybe given the broad old left ideology that has underpinned the revival since the fifties and its antipathy towards Kipling, clumsily seen as an apologist for imperial wrongdoing. But welcome. (And go here... for an interesting article that links Pete Bellamy, Kipling and this broader ideological point).

On y va: Richard Thompson's 'King of Bohemia.' During this last, it struck me that all the singing tonight had an edge of music hall to it rather than the usual folky nuances. What do I mean? Um – the notes are a bit scribbled here as the third double vodka was starting to hit. I suppose that - the songs were sung with a clever (but not slick) grasp of performance. They are knowingly delivered with the skill hidden backstage as it were, letting the song breathe and work itself through. So that it does not rely on cod folk accents or American timbres or some phony and sentimental idea that we are elsewhere in time than the present but comes, maybe, from a more knowingly performative tradition that is somewhat closer to us. And is certainly more available for study. And works very well as an underlying platform that can accomodate a large variety of songs. Maybe I'm wrong... But there is definitely something at work behind the songs here that enables the smooth transitions of old and new.

Onwards: 'Lovely Nancy,' again a song that fits well in this context;the (I think) Leon Rosselson setting of William Blake's 'I went to the garden of love;' a guitar instrumental take on a Sharon Shannon tune – which in places reminded me vaguely of Cyril Tawney's 'Sammy's Bar.' A skilful use of vibrato by Sam Stephens here. A clever segue into Tom Wait's 'Waltzing Matilda.' Sung straight again – not easy to pull off when getting inside the narrative flow of Tom Wait's home language. On to another favourite of mine: 'Napoleon Bonaparte.' This is usually sung unaccompanied: the guitar part here was especially fluid in its following of the vocal line. See my comments above about clawhammering straitjackets. The obligatory gambit of the encore was accepted: in this case truly deserved – hey, we really wanted more! Hats off to Gren and Sam.

I was talking with Frank the next day and we were enthusing over the performance. The folk scene of the early 1960's was where I initially made my bones as a guitar player and singer, before various and many detours. I've run clubs as well, so have seen the game from both sides – still do, although my club's experimental music agenda is perhaps a long way from the mainstream of folk music. Maybe not. I happen to enjoy both and have had a strange relationship with folk down the years that has run the gamut of emotions from outright love of the music to complete exasperation - to, all too often, stunning boredom. But the folk scene can still throw up a few surprises – which is why I took a chance on Friday night. After a week spent recording mixing some hardcore electronic compositions and improvisations it was so refreshing to clear my head and get back to a stripped down room above a pub, a warm and friendly audience, the obligatory few drinks and witness such a good gig. And to witness the fact that the scene can continue in good hands without resorting to the ghettoisation of the downright twee and irrelevant and/or the quasi misplaced and in any way spurious purisms based on musical and cultural ignorance. These two, Gren and Sam, have evolved a style that provides a flexible backdrop of guitar and voices that will sustain an entertainingly wide variety of songs without straining for effect or buckling under the ambition of the endeavour. A quiet skill. And damn clever...

And the beginning of an interesting run of acoustic gigs, locally. Next Wednesday, Gren Bartley, a stunningly good young performer, and then Pete Morton, back at the Pack. My favourite English singer/songwriter who has, for a long time now, brought class and grace to that maligned occupation.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

'Point of departure:' Andrew Hill's classic from 1964... a dash of Coltrane from 1962...

Point of departure' is (vaguely) similar territory to Dolphy's classic 'Out to Lunch' – Blue Note was doing some interesting stuff round this time for which Dolphy and Hill would be two similar and overlapping paradigms maybe – battering up against the walls of tradition and in Dolphy's case often going through in gaping rents here and there but crossing back to keep a foot firmly planted inside.

'Refuge' – after the theme a rolling Hill solo – reminds me of a cross between Monk and early Cecil – then – Eric Dolphy comes blasting in, crashing exuberantly through the starting gate, as ever sounding fresh and charmingly jagged (if that makes any sense - Dolphy wears his transgressions lightly, without the angst-ridden heaviness of Coltrane, say). Kenny Dorham – poised and assured, bopping across the harmonies of Hill. Richard Davis solos masterfully. Joe Henderson lays out his credentials, sounding secure in Hill's world. Williams the young Turk drummer everywhere in the best sense.

'New Monastery' is even more reminiscent in its theme of 'Out to Lunch.' Kenny Dorham starts the solo round – if you think about it, playing the Freddie Hubbard straight man role from that album. Then Dolphy again, barrelling in – his unique harmonic/melodic/rhythmic take instantly heard as different – a short sharp shock here. Hill plays a marvellous solo – those echoes maybe of other players – as in Monk looking back to James P Johnson and oddly at times Art Tatum - but distinctly his own man. On this track Joe Henderson sounds a bit back in the mix with Hill's comping to the fore which makes him sound more tentative than he is. A few bars of bass then into a few bars of drums – oddly, you wait for more but the theme comes back in

More Coltrane... could there ever be enough? I think not... from the 1962 Paris Concert, one of my favourite tunes – 'Every time we say goodbye' - essayed here on soprano with a keening sad-tinged wailing, a bitter sweet version of a bitter sweet song. A reflective 'inside' reading, backed up with Tyner's mainly double-timed solo ending on some two-fisted keyboard work. Out with Coltrane, still sticking near to the contours and melody of the song. Maybe one of those that demand it – and/or a lesson learned from Monk who always required his musicians to consider the melody as much as the harmonies beneath.

Andrew Hill



New Monastery


Coltrane Paris Concert


Every time we say goodbye


Monday, January 09, 2006

Coltrane in 1957... some oddities...

... some rarish material from 1957. The session with Ray Draper was under the aegis of the tuba player – who was only 17 when he cut this. I think he acquits himself well but the the tuba did not really emerge at the time as a definitive front-line instrument. Spanky De Brest suddenly and amusingly (I love that name!) turns up again – I seem to have summoned his presence every time I check sideman details recently.

The session with Quinichette is a relaxed blow with a second line tenor man who was regarded as a kind of Lester Young tribute artist – Pres himself dubbed him (rather unkindly maybe but with Lester one never knows do one?) 'Lady Q' ?... But the 'Vice Pres' holds his game up here against the mercurial Trane. Who, as ever, plays well on both – the long tumbling lines marking his expanding personal space in the transitional area of post-Bird Fifties bop/modern jazz. With Quinichette especially, he seems, happy, relaxed, enjoying himself. There is a nice lightness to these two tracks.

1957 was a busy and seminal year for Coltrane – the famous spell with Thelonious Monk and recording in many different settings. These two oddities come from that time of transition, just before he returned to the Davis band in 1958 – to eventually travel onwards into the fire of the 'New Thing.'

These three are for Bruno...

John Coltrane and Ray Draper

Lineup: Ray Draper (tuba); John Coltrane (saxophone); Gil Coggins (piano): Spanky De Brest (bass); Larry Ritchie(drums).




John Coltrane and Paul Quinichette

Lineup:John Coltrane, Paul Quinichette (tenor saxophone); Mal Waldron (piano); Julian Euell (bass); Ed Thigpen (drums).



Tea for Two_mp3


Friday, January 06, 2006

Derek Bailey at the BBC...

OK – I said that I would hunt down some of the Derek Bailey airshots I recorded way back when from the BBC Radio 3 series 'Jazz Today.' The first one is here and should have gone up with the post yesterday: Final Thoughts etc – but the clock was against me. This is Derek in the studio playing live on acoustic – a piece called 'Duke' from the mordantly titled 'The only good jazz composer is a dead one' suite. Maybe I will put up the rest as and when. The sound quality is not perfect – these were cassette transcriptions from the live radio broadcasts – but are adequate enough, I guess. One thing you'll notice on this track is the constant use of open strings grounding it securely in the natural tonalities of the guitar: E A D G etc.
From this same program I also have some fiery Paul Dunmall improvising -I may get round to putting up some of this at a later date. One more for Derek... enjoy...

Derek Bailey



Thursday, January 05, 2006

Derek Bailey: Final thoughts...'All my guitars are called George.'

On this sad day of Derek Bailey's funeral, condolences to his partner, Karen, family and friends - and some final thoughts. The story of his life and achievements is documented in plenty of other places – I just want to record my personal reactions to his passing. When you have never seen or met an artist but only know them from recordings I suppose you create an image of what they might be like in real life. By various accidents of geographical location I was never in the right place at the right time and never got to see or meet Derek Bailey yet he was one of my favourite musicians – up with Monk, Coltrane, Cecil Taylor and Miles. I suppose that straight away one can draw a line connecting all of these – and not the obvious one that the four I just mentioned were and are jazz musicians or playing from the tradition that Derek had also emerged from – and then transcended mightily. The linkage is – integrity. Integrity as artists specifically – I do not know enough about their private lives to comment nor would I be interested in doing so, having no prurient interest and being a believer in the maxim of William Seward Burroughs taken from the short piece re-printed here – 'Most of the trouble in this world has been caused by folks who can't mind their own business, because they have no business of their own to mind .' Miles Davis was, apparently, an unpleasant enough man at times – by his own autobiographical testimony - yet was also capable of great kindness. But consider how he kept on moving artistically rather than sit back and trot out standard choruses on 'Walkin' year after year, encased in a smart Marsalis-like suit and tie. Integrity. Bailey, certainly on the evidence of the interviews I have heard and anecdotal evidence, also had a great deadpan sense of humour. I had entertained a fantasy that I might be able somehow to book him for the club that I run – although where the money was going to come from... But running an improvised enterprise like the Club Sporadic outside of the usual subsidies and art bureacracies you need lots of faith and hope... I was sure that somehow I could secure the money. Then I could have pulled a double coup: booked Derek into the darkness of the East Midlands and sent up a fiery light – and got to hear him close up. Well, we know now that it isn't going to happen in this life. My selfish loss. But also there will never be the chance to give others the chance to hear him. But the fact that I run such a club stems in part from the example of Bailey and others setting up networks, record labels, festivals – creating performing environments from scratch and surviving on ever-fraying shoestrings – a further extension of the integrity of those who see a clear purpose in what they are doing, however supposedly off-the-wall and distanced from the mainstream. The top room of a pub as paradigm for autonomous zone of freedom... even if complete sometimes with the archetypal three men and a dog...

I never saw Monk or Trane or Miles either. But you go with what you have... In the last year I got to see Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, Ornette Coleman, Misha Mingelberg, Erik Friedlander and John Zorn, Evan Parker, despite (or because of, having the free time to travel) recovering from illness. All of whom did not disappoint my expectations...

But not Derek.

It is hard to overestimate my sheer affection for this man, whom I never met. I came to understand his playing more when I started my own faltering steps into free improvisation as apart from improvising conventionally. He had already been down the road... and it is still difficult to avoid the influence. Hearing him for the first time was a truly world-changing moment – comparable to the first time I heard Thelonious Monk, for example. It was the SOUND, not the notes but the way they were strung together. It is long-received critical wisdom that you can tell Monk from a couple of notes – slightly hyperbolic, maybe, but in practice this usually the case. Regarding Derek Bailey, this is equally true. His individual vision for re-structuring guitar playing in a free improvising environment, by the time it came to fruition, indicated to the listener that they would not mistake the player for anyone else. It seems as if Bailey went right to the material core of what guitar playing was and is about. I have written elsewhere in a comparison between Bailey and Joe Morris, a player with some small resemblance but playing more out of jazz, that if you transcribed their solos on acoustic guitar, you could just about imagine Morris's lines transposed to another instrument – with Bailey this would pose many problems of notation. It is not so much the individual notes as the whole of the guitar gestalt that would have to be considered. The difference between playing on a conventional piano,say, and a prepared piano which takes you under the lid into the entrails of wires and hammers and frame. On a saxophone – forget it... Bailey gets inside the guitar, explores its essence of wooden knockings, overtones, string rattle, open strings ringing in a manner that orthodox jazz, say, does not implement. (Having to modulate continually and play with horns means that most jazz guitar chording and scalar playing works off positions going up and down the neck that do not use in the main open strings, the un-stopped strings being deadened by the sides of the fingers). Almost a folk take on playing. Crossed with the implied musical knowledge behind – from jazz and dance band repertoire to 20th century art music. Using the timbral qualities of the instrument helped him to move beyond the conventional chromatic harmonial solutions to improvising by rising above them as it were, forging a metalanguage that is vertical and horizontal in ways that evoke Cecil Taylor. To escape chromatic harmony's drive towards conventional resolution and open up new spaces with the implied imperative of demanding new ways of listening. The texture of the guitar being as important as the actual notes – an equality of timbres, resonance and musical ideas that demands an immersive listening rather than a linear one? Or, as we cannot totally escape the flow of time, an immersive listening alongside or simultaneous to the lineal? A vertical listening to parallel the horizontal? The use of harmonics as an integral part of the note selections is much more extensive than is usually found in the guitar canon – an echoing maybe of the extended range of the saxophone through so-called overblowing – or the 'prepared' piano? These harmonics disrupt the line even as they extend it... contributing to the spiky feel...

His playing with others is equally intriguing. On the very good WMFA broadcast to be found here, there are back to back tracks of him in a duo with Joelle Leandre and a trio with Calvin Weston and Jamaaladeen Tacuma. On the first, Leandre sets up a wonderful long sonorous arco line and Bailey appears to be scratching at this round the edges, playing a sharp, percussive chordal backing. Slowly he comes more into the foreground, the 'comping' figure blending in with the double bass line until they come together. He works aqainst and with the power of Leandre – and you need to be a strong player not to be daunted by Bailey, I think. And this doesn't necessarily apply to technique – more to character and experience. On the other track he meets two other players who stand their ground, the bass and drums of Tacuma and Weston. And rightly so: they give him the supple rhythmic almost harmolodic space to bounce his electric guitar off – a joyous track. The speedy sixteenth note rhythms bring out some inspired playing here as he alternatively floats across the beat and locks onto it. Something that Ornette Coleman does, come to think of it. It proves my thought that he could play anywhere and find his own space – or attract others into his. This last track is also very jazzy... Compare and contrast to his playing with Ruins where his electric guitar cranks out wild distorted howls over the noise/metal/rock of the Japanese duo – not bad for a man of his age, beautifully described by Stewart Lee as 'a cross between Clegg from Last of the Summer Wine and a harsh-but-fair science teacher...' in his piece on Bailey for the Sunday Times January 19 1997 – go here...

By using standard tuning he gave himself further freedom – he gave up 'prepared guitar' fairly early on because, I guess, it actually limits you to playing inside the 'preparedness.' Also, putting the guitar say to modal or open tunings takes you out of the standard but actually again limits you to the insistent tonality of the tuning By using the open strings he can root his playing tonally at times but move beyond conventional resolution – the tension coming from the notes crushed, sprung and chopped across those open strings to provide a kind of pan-tonal rather than stricly atonal ambiguity and complexity. Some of this transfers over into his electric playing... although the volume, timbral qualities and built in speed of the electric medium require different strategies. For example, the longer sustain of notes – on an instrument that can be played fast, conversely you don't have to.Yet he is still, demonstrably, Derek Bailey, instantly recognisable, the style/metalanguage in place.

Bailey established himself internationally playing and recording in a bewildering amount of line-ups and settings – those who follow the music increasingly recognising his influence and genius. In recent years, predictably, however, one started to notice the backlash creeping in. After the dust settles (some biblical image there?) will be the time to consider his contribution more soberly . Oddly enough there have never been that many detractors (surprisingly, considering some of the scathing comments he makes about the parochial/bureaucratic nature of some aspects of the London scene in this interview – thanks to Zoilus for this) – the recent sniping was more of a balancing, maybe, or the inevitable reaction when an artist has been on the top of their game for so long. There was, maybe, too much reverence at times. But I suspect that his place in the world of improvised music – and beyond – is secure. I doubt that it bothered him overmuch – this after all is a man who has played with the whole roster of international musicians from within and without the improvising world – and with Morecambe and Wise and Gracie Fields. And called his various guitars 'George.' And had a firm and humourous sense of his own worth and contribution to the music...

When the dust settles... the Sheffield steel will still be shining through...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Bluebird... Ornette Coleman... Derek Bailey...

Here's a weird and wonderful mix – I found a Bluebird sampler yesterday that I bought a couple of years ago and promptly forgot about. Like all samplers, a curate's egg... But some interesting stuff. A rare Art Blakey Jazz Messengers track for starters – at the time when theoretically Jackie McLean had left and Johnny Griffin came in – except that they are both on this track, Bill Hardman making up the front line on trumpet – a peppy solo from him. McClean still plays under the heavy shadow of Bird here, Griffin his usual rapid-fire self. Sam Dockery on piano and the delightfully named 'Spanky' De Brest on bass. The guv'nor at the traps, majestically powering it all along.

The Mingus is an alternate take from 'New Tijuana Moods,' with the very wonderful and totally obscure Clarence Shaw on trumpet. A brief overview of the sessions that made up 'Tijuana Moods' and its later reprise with added alternate takes can be found here...

The Ellington band from 1967 make up this trio – Johnny Hodges on imperious form.

People seem to like Ornette – he's statistically the most popular download off this blog. So: here's a couple more from 'Change of the Century.'

Lastly – a repost of a couple of Derek Bailey tracks, solos from 'Improvisation'... why not? Just to mention a touching tribute (and free download of a track from the album featured here: 'Improvisation') to the late Derek from my friend and collaborator Murray Ward here... Another indication of the ways that Bailey touched many of us - apart from the music there was something about the man that generated deep affection among strangers...


Art Blakey

Charles Mingus
Tijuana Gift Shop

Duke Ellington
Blood Count


Ornette Coleman


Face of the Bass



Derek Bailey





Monday, January 02, 2006

Onwards... Louis Armstrong... Jimmy Guiffre... John Coltrane...

Haven't got round yet to the 2005 best of stuff – one has to observe the traditions, I suppose, but I've been concerned with other things - recovering from my night at the 'Pink Flamingo' on New Years Eve – and I also realised when I checked 'The Wire' best of year lists that I hadn't actually bought much this last twelve months that was directly new. The bebop posts are going on hold for a week or so as I'm trying to work on a longish Derek Bailey post - so here's some mp3s from the twenties to the sixties in no particular theming... a holding measure but also - just good music. The Louis Armstrong tracks sound as fresh now as they did when they exploded on the scene. I'm working backwards from the thirties – 'Swing that Music' to the Hot Five and Hot Seven stuff – just because I love the sheer happiness evoked in that first track (with a big band) – a great way to start the sequence. The other two tracks from the twenties – well, just listen and wonder...

The Guiffre Three – 'Train and the River' is the famous piece that was featured in 'Jazz on a Summer's Day' – so I added 'Crawdad Suite' as it's lesser known and just as good, I think, in a more languid, spacy manner. (And I've discovered some air shots of Guiffre with Paul Bley and Gary Peacock that I'll try to get round to converting from tape asap). Guiffre is one of those mavericks who still need an accurate reappraisal – from the Four Brothers Herman Herd to being ostracised in the sixties for playing free jazz – someone else I intend to write about soon... from Texas as Ornette was... something about that State and its players and the way that the blues is always lurking in their playing... which leads on to...

Coltrane playing the blues – self-explanatory: 'Blues to Bechet. Homage... to the other great soloist from New Orleans, the mercurial Sidney Bechet...

Maybe the link is the classic feel to all of these tracks - in the way that they look forward and backward at the same time. Sprung off the backbone of the blues and pivoting on Louis who more or less invented the role of bravura solo improvisor in the twenties – while retaining some gutbucket feel of New Orleans. We can see now that 'Jazz' is a continuum which confounds facile categorising...



Swing that music


Potato Head Blues

West End Blues


Jimmy Guiffre

Crawdad Suite

The train and the river


or buy

Blues for Bechet


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy new year...

Happy new year to all... Here's two longish (beware) tracks - Albert Ayler : 'Holy Holy.' A blast of the spirit to warm up a cold and slightly hungover New Years Day. Calvados for breakfast and ask no questions... And one last from Derek Bailey whose death cast a downer spell on the season– taken from when he was part of Tony Oxley's group that recorded 'Four Compositions for Sextet' in1970. British avant-garde at its best.


Holy Holy