Can't seem to leave the jazz alone... some fast blowing, some wild blowing... balanced up by some gospel and some blues...
Johnny Griffin is one of my favourite tenors – tough and speedy – and still going I think (and hope). He participated in many blowing sessions, free and easy let the tapes roll on some blues a couple of originals here and there and whatever standards we fancy this week – easy and cheap to record. But the music from many of these dates is sublime. I have mentioned that 'The way you look tonight' is one of my favourite standards: here it is given a roughing up and scant respect is paid to the sentiments of the lyric. This is Blue Note hard bop doing the changes at a fast lick and let's see where we go. No quarter asked or given... John Coltrane made a lot of these dates as well from the mid – fifties up to when he became a big name with his own band post-Miles and Monk. The recording of this track is right in your face – Art Blakey's drums up and thunderous in the mix which gives it a live edge – as if you were at a jam session. Opening drum crash -then an almost cursory theme statement – almost batting it out of the way to get to the meat of the improvising. Lean and limber and accurate strings of notes by all of the soloists – Griffin, Coltrane rolling out his sheets of sound into the hurricane, Mobley, who stands up well in this imperiously stellar company, Lee Morgan (did he ever make a bad record in his tragically short life?) – all propelled onwards by Blakey's interjections – tom tom rolls, press rolls, snare snaps, rimshots and cymbals like a stormwind. Then the tenors trade eights with the drummer – at this tempo they seem like fours. A brief bass solo to keep Chambers happy maybe, it doesn't do much except act as a pre-cursor to the final chorus.
Albert Ayler still seems to be outside the fold.. . considering he was dead by the early 1970's that is no mean feat. I was listening to some of his early tracks in Sweden with an orthodox bop group of the day – his solos are a light year away from what the rest of the band is playing – yet fit in an odd way. Here he is with his brother Donald, live from Slugs in 1966. I think this is the only recording that Ronald Shannon Jackson made with him – which was a shame as he fits in beautifully. Ayler seems to play some kind of jazz that stands out of time, incorporating the history of the music and the currents that run into it – gospel, blues, marching bands, folk melodies. It's like some musical equivalent of Olson's post-modernism, rather than the hollow banalities of more well-known French thinkers and their academic acolytes – or should that be academic-lite? - that strives to go back beyond the usual metaphysical suspects to pre-Socratic origins to engage with the present anew in an ontological loop across time. I think that this could be extended to many involved in the sixties jazz avant-garde – and may return to a deeper analysis when time permits - Olson got there first, and Cecil Taylor for one was aware of him). All these musicians come from the culture and techniqueof modern jazz – bop and beyond – but reach back to roots without engaging in some grits and greens ersatzery for da brothers. They hit a fresh stream that still flows – onwards to today and beyond. There is something intrinsically fresh about this music. Here's a quote from Albert: 'Yes, and we're trying to do for now what people like Louis Armstrong did at the beginning. That music was a rejoicing. And it was beauty that was going to happen. As it was in the beginning, so it will be at the end.'
More Mingus. And why not? From 'Mingus Ah Um' the homage to Duke – as the years pass, I think that Mingus's stature keeps on growing. This 'Open letter to Duke' pretty much spells out his gratitude to the Master- while adding his own spin - especially the tempo changes - this starts fast then slows down. Duke's long-time alto player Johnny Hodges is evoked in the alto smears and smooth glissandos within the ensembles – I saw him with the Ellington band way back when and on stage slumped in the sax section he looked like a grumpy old fucker who fiddled with his glasses a lot when not playing and was disengaged from his surroundings. The weary cool of a musician who has been on the road a long, long time... But when he blew that sax... You could forgive him for sleeping with your wife... and turn down the covers for him before you politely left...
The saxophone voicings are rich and creamy, spiked with piquant dissonances. Duke would have dug it... and probably did...
If gospel and blues are the main roots – let us have some... Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a fiery gospel singer who had a long career, took her music into many varied settings which did not always play well with the stricter religious sections in the black community and was also a superb guitar player – early on with an acoustic, later with an electric. You don't hear so much of her music these days – which is a shame. Rectified here...
Another female blues singer – Memphis Minnie, one of my favourites, who was very popular throughout the thirties and forties– and also an exemplary guitar player – listen to her rock-solid rhythm here. I love the name as well – that Southern resonance makes 'Minnie' sound exotic. Not quite the same if it was Market Harborough Minnie, somehow... Patois note – 'dogging' here does not have the same meaning as in twenty first century England...
(Johnny Griffin, John Coltrane, Hank Mobley: tenor saxophones; Lee Morgan: Trumpet; Wynton Kelly: piano; Paul Chambers: bass; Art Blakey: drums).
The way you look tonight
(Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone; Donald Ayler: trumpet; Michel Sampson: violin; Lewis Worrell: bass; Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums).
The truth is marching in
(John Handy: alto sax; Booker Ervin: tenor sax; Shafi Hadi: tenor sax;Willie Dennis: trombone; Horace Parlan: piano; Charles Mingus: bass: Dannie Richmond: drums).
Open letter to duke
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Ain't no grave going to hold me down
No need you dogging me