Friday, May 05, 2006

Wild things... Johnny Griffin... Albert Ayler... Charles Mingus... Sister Rosetta Tharpe... Memphis Minnie... and a cast of thousands...

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

(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


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Albert Ayler

(Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone; Donald Ayler: trumpet; Michel Sampson: violin; Lewis Worrell: bass; Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums).

The truth is marching in

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Charles Mingus

(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

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Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Ain't no grave going to hold me down

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Memphis Minnie

No need you dogging me

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36 comments:

Molly Bloom said...

Your writing is brilliant. I'm very impressed. Fantastic. It's an added bonus that you get the music too. I often just come here to read your marvellous writing.

Oh goodness that beginning to 'The Way You Look Tonight' just made me really jump. Ha ha ha. How different is this to the piano version? You were right about it being frantic.

Rod... said...

Wait till the weekend - all vocal - I've located some classic doo wop among other things - back later - need a sandwich to soak up the budweiser...

Molly Bloom said...

Sandwich? Where's mine?

Molly Bloom said...

Now onto the Albert Ayler. This is a quasi-last post. I think the very quiet background sounds are interesting. I can't quite make out what it is making that noise.

Molly Bloom said...

Charles Mingus. Beginning made me jump again. Must be the alcohol. Hee hee.

Not as fast and furious as the Ayler. Smoother. I can't describe it as well as you...

Molly Bloom said...

Oh yes, the slow part. Now you're talking. It's like something out of 'Twin Peaks'.

Rod... said...

Mingus was operating from within the jazz canon - Ayler never really bothered but sprung into his own conception very quickly - Mingus had been around for years anyway - Ayler arrived and left fairly quickly - found dead in the East River under mysterious circumstances - a fast and still unassimilated contribution

(God, that all sounds serious... more Budweiser...)

Molly Bloom said...

These ones seems to be downloading a lot quicker. Now for the Rosetta. I've not heard of her before. I guess that must be her playing the guitar. Very clever stuff. I like the way it is almost flat in places.

It's like when you hear those lovely old pianos - honky tonk and all that.

Molly Bloom said...

Not too serious. Don't you worry.

Molly Bloom said...

No need you doggin' me - this is rather apt, what with Betty keepin' on with her doggin'

She cayn't heyalp it.

When I'm gawn you'll be a-sorrrry.

Molly Bloom said...

Oh dear. Baileys melt-down.

Molly Bloom said...

I've listened to them all now Rod. Thankyou so much. I've had such a great time listening to them all and having a chat.

What a wonderful way to spend a Friday even-tide.

I do give you permission to delete my comments though - what a silly Rose I am.

Rod... said...

Enjoyed your virtual company! Later...

Molly Bloom said...

I think I'm going to share your virtual sandwich. Was it cheese?

Molly Bloom said...

Thankyou so much Rod. You are lovely.

Looking forward to the doowop.

Rod... said...

an odd budweiser influenced mixture - cheese yes, on my own home made bread - plus a small side order of home made chips which I got a sudden craving for. Plus finished off some fragments of a mixed bean salad I prepared earlier - suddenly realised I hadn't eaten since about three pm...
the epicure's friday night at home...

Rod... said...

ram a lam a ding dong... there will be some rare tracks - and some other vocal stuff - time to get away from the jazz for a day or two

Molly Bloom said...

You are a funny one. I knew it was cheese. And chips too.

Molly Bloom said...

Eating is good. I love eating. Rather too much though.

I do love cooking as well. I just make piles and piles of lush food and have to give half of it away. Baking, roasting, cooking, carving. That's the way life should be. Full of excess.

Anyway, you still haven't told me about your wicked youth...

Rod... said...

cheese and chips - old east midlands delicacy - I actually eat very well as a rule but embrace dietary transgression now and then - when I went to the Akron Family gig the other week I got back in time for a drink with a couple of old boys I know and realised when we hit the street that I was starving - so had a kebab - must have had alcohol to consider it - a bizarre mess of some grey chopped up substance that bore little relation to meat on the hoof of any kind... still - as Bertand Russell famously said: Once a philosopher, twice - a pervert...

Rod... said...

I enjoy cooking - as for Rod's early years... watch out for a post soon in a new series: Notes of a Provincial Boy...

Molly Bloom said...

Yes, cheese and chips is an old Midlands delicacy. I'd forgotten about that. And scraps. They don't do scraps down here. They don't even do chips for that matter. I'd kill for chips right now. Really and truly kill!

Easy tiger.

Molly Bloom said...

Can't wait for the provincial boy...

Maybe I should do a 'girl' version. I think the internet police would be after me though!

Rod... said...

might start off with my leaving home at sixteen and ending up at the Edinburgh Festival - saw the Joan Littlewood version of Henry V which was amazing - ended up in Lancashire with a rich girl whose family did not appreciate young male long-haired oik no matter how precosiously intellectual - then on to minor burglary in Manchester - um... may have some minor sociological interest - one of my claims to fame is that I was in the first ever issue of 'The Sun' as a spokesperson for da youth - complete with photograph - which I'm hoping has been lost...

Rod... said...

pedantic note - that should be 'precocious' of course - can't be bothered to delete and repost!

Molly Bloom said...

I do think you should stop eating kebabs. I'm going to have to speak to you about that.

Molly Bloom said...

Don't you worry about anything, you.

Rod... said...

everyone should eat a kebab now and again - hellfire, got bbc2 review thing wittering away in the background - who are these stupid fuckers?

Molly Bloom said...

Oh dear, don't even go there.
Switch it off!

Molly Bloom said...

Did you vote last night? I hope you did. All of the people at work were saying, 'I can't be bothered.' I was so angry. I was just going around saying, 'Emily Pankhurst' over and over.

Rod... said...

There weren't any local elections in God's Little Acre - the self seeking scum and pompous pumped up fuckers who masquerade as local politicians aren't up for election this year. Not sure who I'd vote for anyway - I find them all tiresome (and I know a few of them ). Don't see anyone who'd get my vote anywhere to be honest - I certainly won't vote labour ever again - the reactionary old left have had their chances in the last century - and don't see much else on the landscape...

Molly Bloom said...

Off to sleep now. Tired old bean...see you soon!

Molly Bloom said...

I think you're right about the choices on offer. It's depressing isn't it?

Right, I really must sleep. The beanster will wake me up at 6 again tomorrow and she'll be full of energy and I'll have none. Thankyou for a great time. You are great.

Molly Bloom said...

Great stuff last night Rod. I've spent most of today in Camden Town. It was marvellous. Hope you are good...

St Anthony said...

You can't go wrong with a bit of Ayler - what a crying shame he, as you say, came and went so quickly. I wonder what he would have gone on to do?
I like Ayler for many reasons, not least of which is his melding (like Ornette) of the'New Thing' with negro spirituals and blues and gospels - the new and the old coming together ... poor Albert.
Terrible, really, that so many great musicians in the jazz field have been snuffed out so early - Bird, Coltrane, Ayler, to name but a very obvious few.
Yes, his work is still out there on it's own, isn't it? I was browsing the Web the other day, looking at some Cecil Taylor interviews where he recounts asking Wynton Marsalis if he could dance to James Brown. Marsalis obviously answered in the affirmative. Taylor then asked him if he could dance to Ayler, to which Marsalis could only waffle and stutter ... well, I can dance to both, proclaimed Taylor, triumphantly, and walked away. You tell him, Cecil!

Rod... said...

That's a great quote - my favourite is Cecil on audience reaction - 'If they boo - I'll give them something to REALLY boo about.'