Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mingus in Paris... Lacy/Rudd/Mengleberg/Carter/Bennink...Charlie Parker et al... John Lewis... the MJQ/Giuffre... Ornette Coleman... Sonny Rollins...

As promised – some Mingus – from a Paris concert in 1964. With Jacki Byard in the piano chair... these overlapping themes get complicated... and spinning ever outwards...

There is some confusion over which concert date these tracks come from- I don't intend to get embroiled in that issue. Let us just go with the music...

'Parkeriana' is a homage to Bird, as the title suggests, interwoven throughout with famous Parker themes. Mingus and Richmond start it up, joined by the horns – a suitably choppy riff. The usual shuffle boil of stops starts and tempo changes and the variety that Mingus gets out of just a five-piece band ensues. (Johnny Coles, the trumpeter, had been taken seriously ill and they had to rapidly re-align the arrangements...). The Bird tunes poke out at various junctures as an aid to overall form. Byard takes a wonderful solo – starting off single note then launching into his usual recapitulation of jazz piano history – some dancing stride for example. Mingus seems to be able to create enough imaginative space for this not to clash with the overall structure - and not just here: think of how he had brought in many older musicians down the years – Roy Eldridge, for example – and poured them into the fiery sonic stews he cooked up- a dash of swing, a dash of hard bop, a dash of new wave. Somehow the recipes always works... After Byard, Jordan blows hot bop, Dolphy blows hot... Dolphy - assimilating Parker but sending him back blended in his own harmonic and linear vision. Behind the horn solos – the other horn can be heard in places with a Parker line as obbligato and reference – somewhat off-mike, a ghostly presence. Intentional or not – this works in quite a spooky way... This was one hell of a band – bolstered by the mighty drums and bass of Richmond and the leader.

'23 Skidoo' was apparently an old slang expression in America meaning 'beat it' – in the sense of 'vamoose.' Or 'scram.' A veritable Pandora's box can be opened here... check out this, for example.... And here, for the more arcane inclined, out of WSB and Robert Anton Wilson, say... ... In jazz- a composition by Herbie Nichols, in my selection given the workover by Steve Lacy and company... Mengleberg opens briefly then the theme arrives – a slow unsteady processional. A strong flavour of Monk – enhanced by Mengelberg's choppy piano. Lacy takes the first solo – he always seemed a very poised and unhurried player, bending his way through the Nichols harmonies before Rudd comes in with smearing muted trombone, a hint of astringent mockery in his tone. Intriguing mixture of old and new – homage to tailgate. Mengelberg next, bouncing nicely off the theme. Inclining into Monkish space, but with a few clanging surprises of his own. Carter gives a liquid and deep chorus before the horns return to finish. Bennink fairly reticfent by his standards throughout but solid.

I mentioned Jazz at the Phil recently... here's Bird with a few others courtesy of the patronage of Norman Granz, doing the 'Funky Blues.' A slow drag ensemble seesawing riff with Hodges taking the last four bars of the twelve before going into his solo – slow, slurring, understated blues power. Bird follows – listen to the second chorus where he repeats a figure- then flies off with a delicate filigree run. Benny Carter matches, elegance underslung with a contained strength... Petersen essays some rippling lines up and down the keyboard. Barney Kessel does some twangy blues licks. Shavers blasts out some stirring trumpet – Ben Webster comes whooshing in, Phillips delivers some churning, gritty figures. Is this what they call granularity, Roland? Petersen again then the out chorus. A pretty amazing document – look at the sax lineup...

The piano intro by John Lewis then into the theme - I realised that I had not heard this Bird track for a very long time – but could still remember every note. Red Rodney had a large and fat brassy tone and was a more than adequate partner for the altoist. John Lewis takes a sprightly solo. 3 minutes fifteen seconds of compressed heaven.

Both of the above were on a treasured Verve compilation from my teenage years... a strong original part of the long journey...

John Lewis was the mainstay of the Modern Jazz Quartet. But he always liked to play the blues... Here he is solo with 'Two degrees east, three degrees west.' Another track from my teenage years and early infatuation with jazz, in the version recorded by, I think, a west coast line-up including Bud Shank and Bob Cooper, which I must track down... A brief intro then the theme is picked out in the treble, musingly, dropping an octave and fleshed out in the second chorus. A jerky feeling throughout, some background humming from Lewis, giving the feeling that the pianist is sat late night, just playing for himself. Sparse left hand, bebop style... Late Lewis...

Jimmy Guiffre recorded with the Modern Jazz Quartet at Music Inn in the fifties – a kind of temporary autonomous zone where musicians were brought into an academic environment out of the hurly burly of the clubs – some interesting developments ensued – much of the so-called 'Third Stream' flowed from this source (especially if you include Ornette Coleman's work for chamber ensembles and full orchestra – 'Skies of America' etc...).

'During its final years, 1957-1960, a significant Music Inn innovation was their School of Jazz. Showcasing the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) as group-in-residence and its leader John Lewis as artistic director, the school's curriculum allowed “students” to develop in an environment that fostered experimentation and creativity. The faculty list is a who's who of '50s and '60s jazz as George Schuller, one of the film's co-producers and a NYC musician himself notes, “John Lewis said, why not get Max Roach, Oscar Peterson, Lennie Tristano and Jimmy Giuffre to teach the students performance. My father (Gunther Schuller, a co-founder of the so-called Third Stream along with Lewis) and Marshall Stearns taught a history class, Bill Russo taught arranging while George Russell was brought in to teach his theoretical analysis.” ' (From an interesting article here...).

Quintessential MJQ plus clarinet, I suppose, displaying Lewis' desire to meld his European theoretical knowledge out of Bach with his jazz techniques. Giuffre is limpid and breathy and fits in well – the lines criss-crossing and underpinned by an understated swing from Kay and the ever-reliable Percy Heath. Quiet stuff...

Ornette Coleman was picked up on early by John Lewis who became a strong champion of his music ... here he is live from 1969, in the company of the late Dewey Redman – 'Comme il faut.' Well – I'm off to France next thursday so it fits... n'est ce pas? A thrumming bass solo from Charlie Haden, then Don Cherry, calling the people home. Two intriguing saxophone solos from Redman and Coleman. Denardo was about thirteen, I think – and plays beyond his years... One of those Ornette pieces with a slow theme and underlying fast rhythm that create so much space for the instruments to move in and do the freedom jazz dance...

Looping back... Sonny Rollins made some recordings with the MJQ back in the early fifties... here he is in 1958 with a Beatles' song 'Till there was you.' from the 'Freedom Suite' album. (Later recorded by the Beatles, taken from the 'Music Man' score). Deep dark tone, a leisurely prod at the theme, unhurried soloing. With the bass offering a strong buttress, he has so much space to move in. Max Roach is hardly audible – some swish of cymbals when Pettiford takes his solo – almost sublimal. Rollins returns, slithers over the theme majestically and ends down low. Tenor playing hewn from the mighty oak of the Hawkins lineage.

In the Videodrome...


and again...

The MJQ...

Please note... the two long tracks 'Parkeriana' and 'Comme il faut' are on Savefile and available for slightly longer – but they probably won't play in the Hype Machine juke box like the others...

Charles Mingus
(Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone, bass clarinet and flute), Clifford Jordan (tenor saxophone), JakiByard (piano), and Dannie Richmond (drums), Charles Mingus (bass) ).


Charlie Parker
(Red Rodney (tp) Charlie Parker (as) John Lewis (p) Ray Brown (b) Kenny Clarke (d) ).
Swedish Schnapps


Jam Session
(Charlie Parker, Johnny Hodges, Bennie Carter: alto saxophone; Flip Phillips, Ben Webster: tenor saxophone; Oscar Peterson: piano; Barney Kessel: guitar; Ray Brown: bass; J. C. Heard: drums).
Funky Blues


John Lewis (solo piano)
Two degrees east, three degrees west


MJQ+ Jimmy Guiffre
Jimmy Giuffre: clarinet; John Lewis:piano; Milt Jackson: vibraphone; Percy Heath: bass; Connie Kay: drums).
Fugue for Music Inn


Steve Lacy
(Steve Lacy: alto saxophone; Roswell Rudd: trombone; Mischa Mengelberg: piano; Kent Carter: bass; Han Bennink:drums).
23 Skiddoo


Ornette Coleman
(Don Cherry (cor, Indian fl), Ornette Coleman (as, tp, vln), Dewey Redman (ts, cl),
Charlie Haden (b), Denardo Coleman (d))
Comme il faut

Buy – good luck - you'll have to search for this one...

Sonny Rollins
(Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone; Oscar Pettiford: bass; Max Roach: drums).
'Til there was you


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