Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Monk's Birthday... Mal Waldron... Duke Jordan (R.I.P)... Art Tatum... Jaki Byard with Roland Kirk and Eric Dolphy... Mingus...

A mixed bag – continuing a pianists theme and leading into some Mingus via Roland Kirk and Eric Dolphy... but first just to mention that it is Thelonious Monk's birthday today... born 89 years ago... perversely, none of his work today... I post plenty anyway - with more to come soon. So...

First up - Mal Waldron. Not so far from Monk, maybe... For me, immortalised in Frank O' Hara's poem about the death of Billie Holiday, 'The Day Lady Died.' (Text here...).

'then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing.'

The last two lines especially just hit... anyway... this is Waldron playing with a trio – the old Sonny Rollins tune 'Airegin' – introduced slowly and obliquely before the tempo ups. Fleet runs - some nice re-quoting and re-aligning the tune back and forth. Monkish... Some surging left hand thunder and right hand eloquence before a fast walk from the bass – solid nothing fancy four on the floor – leading into drums and fours with the piano – Waldron pounding out some thumping figures in response. Restates the theme and slows into a rhapsodic section as the bass and drums drop out briefly. Then speeding up again - a fascinating deconstruction/reconstruction of this well known piece. Waldron spent many years in Europe where he sadly died a couple of years ago (in Brussels) and often displayed his considerable versatility in his duets with Steve Lacy (I have a live concert of the two of them I will post some selections from soon).

Duke Jordan had been around... he made his first record session in 1945 with the splendidly named Floyd Horsecollar Williams and came to prominence in the Charlie Parker quintet a couple of years later (of which personnel, only Max Roach now survives). He also wrote the classic 'Jordu' – one of my favourite tunes - and went on to become an elder statesman of the keyboard art until his death recently (August 8th 2006) in Copenhagen at the age of of 84. This is a slow reading of 'Here's that Rainy Day,' complete with archetypal bop quote early in - 'Jingle Bells.' Well, it was getting near Christmas – this was recorded in late November 1973. Classic modern jazz piano from a master. There is a good obituary/appreciation of his life here...

Art Tatum – the master of them all? Who knows... I don't go in very much for saying that so and so is the best or the greatest – but he is surely very near the top of the tree if not at the pinnacle. This is solo Tatum, playing 'Willow weep for me.' Dazzling as ever – teasing in the middle eight as it seems he is about to go into a stride bass a couple of times but holds back. Later this surfaces for brief sections of a few bars - enough to establish the strong rhythm underneath but interestingly continually disrupted by torrents of notes. Tatum pretty much had it all...

I thought I had some solo Jaki Byard somewhere but have been so far unable to dig it out. Here he is playing with the wild and wonderful Roland Kirk, on a track taken from 'Rip Rig and Panic,' recorded in 196 Kirk sticks to the stritch and produces a skirling, joyous solo. Byard runs his usual stylish gamut commencing on some bluesy figures and ending on a vamp that lets Kirk back to state the theme. Some telling bass throughout from the wonderful Richard Davis- high plucked guitar-like notes to low and solid walking. Elvin Jones is sharp, firing off short fast bursts that kick the track along like sharp bursts on the accelerator. A stunning rhythm section...

Byard again – with Eric Dolphy on the album 'Far Cry' from which I have selected two tracks – 'Left Alone'and the leader's stunning solo rendition on alto of 'Tenderly.' The first - a slow theme stated by Dolphy's flute and marked out by Haynes' hi hat backbeat. Dolphy swirls off into his solo – an elegance to his playing here, the purer timbre of the flute making his line seem less jagged than on saxophone. Haynes supplies some busy counter-rhythms. Ron Carter steps up for his solo – fluently leading the way for Byard who enters thoughtfully - single note runs unusually all the way for his brief section before Dolphy leads them out again.

'Tenderly' is a feature for solo alto saxophone (in the lineage of Coleman Hawkins 1940 classic 'Picasso')... his first such and an assured - and groundbreaking - performance. (Anthony Braxton's classic solo outing 'For Alto' was recorded in 1968). He seems to smooth out his line somewhat, while still being recognisably Dolphy. His later solo performances would invariably feature the bass clarinet, as if the deeper horn added some ballast he thought necessary for solo work... but I speculate...

Finally to Charles Mingus... I suppose that every week I hear something that gives me pause and says to me: this is the essence of what I understand as jazz. Some weeks it could be Jelly Roll Morton, others Monk. Or Bunk Johnson. Or Albert Ayler... Or... well, you get the idea. Jazz in its short history has produced so much... Mingus at Carnegie Hall in 1974. Playing an old Ellington piece, 'Perdido.' A long, rip-roaring hogsnorting wahoo of a live track, bursting with joyous and impassioned performances from the constituents – which you want to go for ever as they transcend time. It reminds me of some of the old Jazz at the Phil sessions produced by Norman Granz... and it is just sheer fun and exhilaration... one of those tracks that you figure could convert any jazz non-believer... Danny Richmond belts the ensemble along mightily and seems to have a crash cymbal that was made out of a tin tray - resounding bashes. A stellar solo lineup - check out the horns: saxophone heaven - including Roland Kirk (I aim for some weird continuity). Plus some storming Pullen - to round off the piano theme...

In the Videodrome...

Roland Kirk
in Hamburg...
and encore une fois

Jimmy Smith
... take a walk on the wild side...

Mal Waldron
(Mal Waldron:piano; Julian Euell: bass; Al Drears: drums).


Duke Jordan
(Duke Jordan: piano; Mats Vinding: baass; Ed Thigpen:drums).
Here comes that rainy day


Art Tatum
Willow weep for me


Roland Kirk
(Roland Kirk: Stritch; Jaki Byard: piano; Richard Davis; bass; Elvin Jones: drums).
Black Diamonds


Eric Dolphy
(Eric Dolphy: flute,alto saxophone; Jaki Byard: piano; Ron Carter: bass; Roy Haynes: drums).
Left Alone



Charles Mingus
(Charles Mingus (acoustic bass); George Adams (tenor saxophone); Hamiet Bluiett (baritone saxophone); Don Pullen (piano); Dannie Richmond (drums). Additional personnel: John Handy (alto & tenor saxophones); Charles McPherson (alto saxophone); Rahsaan Rolan Kirk (tenor saxophone, stritch); Jon Faddis (trumpet) ).


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