Goddogo mentioned this Eric Dolphy track in the comments section of the last post... I was originally going to put it up with the other Lasha/Simmons material but couldn't find it. Dug it out finally in the wee small hours...
'Music Matador' was recorded by Eric Dolphy in 1963, about the same time of the 'Iron Man' session which also had Prince Lasha and Sonny Simmons in the ensemble. It has a crazy lilt to it – coming over a bass vamp, the horns skirl out the calypso-like melody. At first you would wonder that this was a Dolphy cut – then the inimitable bass clarinet comes in. Simmons solos on angular alto sax over cymbals and Davis's insistent bass. Ensemble - then Lasha taking a flute solo that shows him to conventional advantage. The high horn range space is further explored by Clifford Davis on soprano sax. Dolphy on bass clarinet, makes his usual diagonal entrance. A vocal performance, high querulous honking interruptions and some glorious dissonances. Davis takes a solo, more of an extension of his role throughout this track which pivots on his variations on the simple chord pattern – harbinger for his later sessions with Van Morrison on 'Astral Weeks.'. Unusually for a lot of the recent recordings that I have featured from the sixties, the bass is prominent throughout rather than muddied in the mix and the drums here are often just ticking in the background. The title – expect Spanish tinge – get Caribbean swing... go figure as they say... The tune is credited to Lasha but Simmons says he wrote it – given that he apparently hung around with Sonny Rollins, the calypso connection makes sense... An unusual front-line blend of alto sax, flute and soprano sax playing off the weaving bass clarinet - that epitomises many of the explorations of the sixties with these adventurous timbral combinations. A final amusing thought:
"Music Matador" is what the theme to "The Jungle Book" movie would sound like interpreted on acid. (From a review here... scroll down...). Turn on, tune in...
Lasha played on a few sessions as sideman – here's an obscurity by the jazz violinist Michael White from 1971. White made his bones in free jazz but came to prominence with the John Handy band before going off to embrace his own version of jazz-fusion. This is a three part suite – 'Land of spirit and light.' Presented as more of a curiosity – but White's take on the genre has a certain charm – nice bouncy summer sounds. Chopping trebly rhythm guitar over fast latin-y drums – Santana anyone? Long violin notes slowly building. Bass and guitar criss cross to announce the second section before White returns. Followed by a guitar solo over chattering percussion, dying slightly before pattering congas/bongos are joined by piano. Lasha at last joins the fray over insistent drums, his flute more colouration that solo in the usual jazz sense, joined by White, the violin becoming more aggressive, edging the flute back. Background voices join in. A flavour of Sergio Mendes... The flute takes it out and dies over the rhythm fade out. A curio – I will try to get hold of some better examples of Lasha... White is another who fell by the wayside – but has had some resurgence in recent times.
Something about this track reminds me obliquely of Herbie Mann – specifically the 'Memphis Underground' album - when I used to live in Dublin in the seventies I frequented a bar called the 'Old Crescent' at the bottom of Mary Street – run by a Kerryman who had spent many years in New York before he came back to buy a pub in Dublin. A teetotal landlord – which was bizarre enough in the drink-drowned culture of the owld place and a guy who liked music and musicians – lots of great sessions at the 'Crescent.' Oddly enough he wasn't the biggest fan of Irish traditional sounds – referred to as 'Immigration music,' scathingly. In the lounge bar upstairs was an 8 track cartridge player with apparently only one album – 'Memphis Underground' which was consequently played a lot – I feel that it seeped into me through osmosis helped along with mucho Guinness backed by Black Bushmills and red lemonade. Liam was one of the great landlords, a good friend – here's one for him... Critics were often very snitty about Herbie Mann – but anyone who hired Sonny Sharrock – who contributes some wild wahoo guitar on this album – is o.k. by me... Here, Mann states the theme over a greasy back beat from the Memphis boys. Mann comes off the strong r and b rhythm in a rolling solo. Coryell comes in for his rock hero section. Ayers' vibes add a tonal spice, in a ringing, building couple of choruses, technically the 'jazziest' solo here. Then – wham! Sharrock tips the whole thing over into another dimension of cranked up distortion and off-kilter strumming. This was the bit I always waited for, back in the Old Crescent lounge... akin to suddenly and gloriously disappearing down some cosmic worm-hole. The band spiritedly try to catch up and match the fireworks... I wonder what Sam and Dave made of it all...
Let's spin back away from the edges to the solid raw heart of the tradition – not such a distance... Sonny Simmons name-checked Gene Ammons as an influence so here's some Jug – I bought this album when I was about 14-15 and the version of 'Willow weep for me,' recorded at the Black Orchid Lounge, Chicago in 1961, still stands out in my memory. (The name of the venue gives off a wonderful smoky jazz/nightclub ambiance...) Ammons gave a blues edge to everything (the son of Albert Ammons, the two fisted boogie piano stomper from the thirties, it must have been embedded in his DNA): he turns 'Willow' into an impassioned and testifyingly vulnerable lament. Holmes comes in like an icy stream trickling past the bending trees – whatever organ stops he is using rhyme perfectly with the theme and mood. Gene Edwards' guitar is bluesy and boppily fluent. Ammons restates the theme and plays an unaccompanied coda that teases out the tune to audience laughter. This live recording gives a timeless reminder of what jazz can be, beyond genre and idiomatic borders, when it cuts through straight to the heart...
Ammons cut his teeth on tenor duels. Here is a live track from the evening session of an all day recording in 1970, again from Chicago – but at the more prosaic North Star Hotel - featuring Dexter Gordon, a running mate from the old Herman Herd way back. A re-run of 'The Chase,' the tandem wild blowout between Wardell Grey and Dexter. Here they blast holes in the acoustic spaces, wild surging tenor with the bebop flash and speed yoked to the emotional power of the blues – honking heaven...
The penultimate track - looping back in time, Ammons in 1958 – playing 'It might as well be spring' (looking at the weather with the hint of autumn on the rain earlier and the looming winter I wish it was already...). Dark brown misty tenor ballad wizardry – with a slight touch of Ben Webster's whooshy timbre. Tough and tender... Another oddity – John Coltrane on alto... thoughtful and almost hesitant at first, as if the smaller horn was more delicate to handle than his usual tenor - until he starts to dig in... the melody always somewhere in view... Mal Waldron pithy and epigrammatic...
To end a scattered and rambling post (hey – I improvise as well...) going out with Maria Schneider... checking the comments I saw Molly Bloom asking who were my favourite female jazz musicians. Cue for a post – so here's a taster. 'Hang gliding' comes from the album 'Allegresse' and I think it is awesome. Schneider was a Gil Evans protege and it shows in these deep and mellow voicings spliced to unusual timbres emanating from the adventurous instrumentation and spiced with astringent harmonies. An evocation of the sport she was introduced to in South America, the off-kilter 11/4 captures the erratic rise and fall of the wind and the swooping emtional rush of fear and exhiliration. I am not a great devotee of big bands as a rule – but it seems that Schneider is not either - '"I don't even like big bands these days. I'm not hearing big band voices anymore. I try to put together a musical idea and then see how I can express that." (From the article here...). As the interviewer says - 'She has developed an individual style that in some ways is defined by her ensemble using the name "orchestra" rather than "big band."'Schneider references Charles Ives in this piece, which, allied to the influences via mentor Gil, puts her in a consciously wider frame of American musical reference. She uses a broad palette and has been criticised for not writing strong melodies and for being an Evans clone – each to their own, as they say, but I think she has forged a unique body of work, re-invigorated a half-dead format (orchestra or big band, it's still a large group of musicians to score for). Her congregation has also been accused of more or less not being famous musicians, consequently that their solos are not that strong. I think she writes for her musicians and that they give back what is needed to the overall sound - and are plenty strong... A lot going on and music that needs, perhaps, repeated listening. I hear plenty of melody, her own take on the Evans legacy and beyond and an up to date infusion of new life into the old game... there is a steely determination at play here,crossed with a strong emotional power that gives her music sinew, intelligence and ... beauty...
Coda – if you missed it in the comments section, Goddogo points to this fascinating conversation with Prince Lasha – still going strong...
Eric Dolphy (bass clarinet); Clifford Jordan (soprano saxophone); Sonny Simmons (alto saxophone); Woody Shaw (trumpet); Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone); Richard Davis (bass); Charles Moffett(drums); (J.C Heard is sometimes given as drummer on this – I've taken this line up from the Dolphy discography here...http://adale.org/Discographies/LateED.html).
Michael White (violin); Stanley Nash, Kenny Jenkins (vocals); Bob King (classical guitar); Prince Lasha (flute, alto flute, piccolo, clarinet); Ed Kelly (piano); Cecil McBee (bass instrument); Kenneth Nash (percussion)
The land of spirit and light, parts 1-3
Herbie Mann (flute); Roy Ayers (vibraphone, congas); Bobby Wood (acoustic & electric piano); Bobby Emmons (organ); Larry Coryell, Sonny Sharrock, Reggie Young (guitar); Tommy Cogbill, Mike Leech, Miroslav Vitous (Fender bass); Gene Christman (drums)
Hold on I'm coming
Gene Ammons (ts) Richard Holmes (org) Gene Edwards (g) Leroy Henderson (d)
Willow weep for me
Gene Ammons/Dexter Gordon
(Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon (ts) Jodie Christian (p) Rufus Reid (b) Wilbur Campbell (d) ).
John Coltrane (as) Gene Ammons (ts) Mal Waldron (p) George Joyner (b) Art Taylor (d)
It might as well be spring
(The Orchestra: Maria Schneider; composer & conductor: Tim Ries; saxes, clarinet & flutes: Charles Pillow; saxes, clarinet, flute, piccolo, oboe & English horn: Rich Perry; tenor sax & flute: Rick Margitza; saxes & flute: Scott Robinson; saxes, clarinets & flutes: Tony Kadleck; trumpet, piccolo trumpet & flugelhorn: Greg Gisbert; trumpet & flugelhorn: Laurie Frink; trumpet & flugelhorn: Ingrid Jensen; trumpet & flugelhorn: Dave Ballou; trumpet & flugelhorn: Keith O� Quinn; trombone: Rock Ciccarone; trombone: Larry Farrell; trombone: George Flynn; bass trombone & tuba: Ben Monder; guitars: Frank Kimbrough; piano: Tony Scherr; basses: Tim Horner; drums: Jeff Ballard; percussion).