There may not be much posting next week as I'm off to Wales on monday to see my daughter and the boy Jake. So I'd better give some good value before I leave. The usual eclectic selection – I would have put up a couple more but have been having problems with slow uploads. But onwards...
I first heard 'Chappaqua Suite' not long after it came out - way back – apparently Conrad Rooks had commisioned Ornette to write the music for his movie 'Chappaqua' – then for whatever reason decided that it didn't fit his concept – I've never seen the film- one of those counter-culture legends which may well exist as more interesting unseen, given some of the reviews – although the redoubtable William S Burroughs has a part in it as 'Opium Jones.' I suspect that the music may well outlive the movie anyway... arranged by Eric Dolphy, it's wonderful stuff. Played by his trio, plus Pharoah Sanders on tenor and a backdrop of strings woodwinds and brass - lifted by the drums of Charles Moffett – (can't hear the bass too well, which is a great shame given that Izenson was so damn good). The basic format is for the orchestra to come in and out with brief jagged shards of sound – vertical clusters and chords in block harmony while he improvises over the top - when they fall out leaving just him and the bass and drums – like a collision/contrast almost between the swinging and the more austere European scoring. A dry run for 'Skies of America,' maybe? Some great blowing from Ornette, tempos pretty up on this track, that vertical orchestral wedge intersecting with the linear, free -flowing free-blowing, unravelling ingenuity of the leader, matched all the way by Moffett. You won't hear Sanders on this track, by the way - he only pops up briefly on the album.
So to the cool – the iceman Tristano cometh. Or is that just an old critical cliché? Plenty of soul here, just two guys playing from what they know. Tristano may have been blind but he wasn't black and neither was Lee Konitz. So you don't expect them to play cornbread and greens gutbucket blues really, do you? There's a different fire going on here, I think. And lest we forget – Konitz was one of the few original alto sax voices in the bebop and after period when Bird was being massively imitated by – pretty much everyone. Here they tackle the fountainhead, so to speak – (Bird, rather than Ayn Rand – come on!) Donna Lee, an archetypal bop line of Parker's. With a good rhythm section – Doug Ramey and Art Taylor (undersung in the annals – crisp and clear on this live date) – they respond accordingly. This is Tristano's logical take on the ramifications of the bop improvised line echoed by his pupil Konitz. Flowing, surprising little rhythmic twists, light but strong. And all that rubbish about his hatred of drummers is nonsense – some kind of a put – down. Tristano's music has been neglected due to the vicissitudes of jazz criticism (probably an element of crow-jim here): his impact was a lot greater than realised.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk was more than a sax player – he was a wild ball of energy who sometimes had to play three saxes at once to get the music he heard and felt out into the world. An amazing musician – and one who was regarded by some critics (damn their impudent eyes) as some kind of circus act. Well, to engage in polemical critical discourse – fuck 'em and the hegemony they rode in on... Kirk was a very underrated tenor player, let alone his expertise on flute and the hybrid saxophones Manzello and Stritch (sounds like a quirky movie title). He also confused people by his depth of historical musical knowledge and reference – from New Orleans traditional upwards. People who don't fit critical pigeonholes usually get – ignored. Not to say he was, totally, but I get the feeling he was never given his due. This track is a bright and cheerful ¾ , played on one of the bastard horns, the one that sounds like a soprano sax – it has that 'lemony' character one associates with the straight sax. Some full two handed accompaniment on the piano and thrusting drums. For all the blood and fire usually associated with Kirk – this is a lithe, spring morning track, the waltz time giving it a pastoral feel as he sticks to one horn throughout.
Back to the 'cool' school? One of Tristano's pupils – the equally neglected tenorman, Warne Marsh. Playing here with the expat pianist Ronie Ball who was also taken under the Tristano wing. Marsh plays with a lighter tone than the usual sturm und drang brigade, coming out of Lester Young but very much his own man. It has been remarked about his playing that he never resorts to signature phrases and fall-back licks but was always freshly inventive – a characteristic of Tristano and his stronger pupils, that came directly from his teachings on improvised melody? Crisp drumming and bass, Ball plays an inventive solo and Marsh dances across it all like the master he was... This is taken from the oddly named album 'Music for Prancing' – which suggests bizarre images to me of those weird folk whose sexual fetish is to impersonate horses and be driven around pulling carts. Or maybe I should get out more... I've alos just noticed that I've typo'ed Marsh's first name into my surname – well, I'm not uploading the bugger again, so my apologies to his shade, as it were...
The subtext here? That the wild men were not always what they seem, while the 'cool' guys had plenty of fire. Sometimes the best thing to do is just listen... and resist the critical hegemony...
Dont'cha just love that word?
(Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone;David Izenson:bass; Charles Moffett: drums; Pharoah Sanders: tenor saxophone; 11 piece orchestra, arrangements by Eric Dolphy).
Chappaqua Suite part 1
(Lennie Tristano: piano; Lee Konitz: alto saxophone;Doug Ramey: bass; Art Taylor: drums).
Rahsaan Roland Kirk
(Rahsaan Roland Kirk: saxes, flute; Jaki Byard: piano; Richard Davis: bass; Elvin Jones: drums).
Warne Marsh (tenor saxophone), Ronnie Ball (piano), Red Mitchell (bass), Stan Levey (drums).
Playa del ray