Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Jug and Dodo... Oliver Nelson... Art Tatum/Ben Webster/Louis Bellson... Andrew Hill... Cecil Taylor...

'You're driving me crazy'... Marmarosa swings lightly in... then Ammons brusquely blats out the tune. As good an example of the way jazz works as you will find – stripping the melody to the bones before commencing an exploration and expansion of the song's innards and possibilities. The pianist takes over, an assured, articulate performance ranging over the keyboard and ending in some discreet block-chording that allows the bass through before Ammons returns to signal some exchanges with the drummer until the saxophone takes it out. Ammons, of course, the incomparable 'Jug,' son of barrelhouse/boogie player Albert Ammons and one of the best tenors out of bebop. Marmarosa: a white bebop legend who flared briefly across the forties – noted especially for his recordings with Artie Shaw and later Charlie Parker - and disappeared back to Pittsburgh after an unhappy hitch with the military in the early fifties. This session was a rare surfacing, recorded in Chicago,1962. Marmarosa was a player who bridged the gap from swing to bop successfully, yet:

'[he was]a gentle and fragile man who never really learned to cope with the pressures of jazz life, but... also given to unpredictable behaviour. According to [Charlie] Barnet, he once pushed a piano off a balcony, and explained that he wanted to hear what chord it would sound when it landed.' (From here...). Cool...

Oliver Nelson made several records with Eric Dolphy, including the stone classic 'Blues and the Abstract Truth.' This is 'Alto-itis' from 'Screaming the Blues,' an odd mixture of post- Bird and hard bop/soul jazz. Dolphy wheels and flies on the first solo, skittering lines that sound a conceptional light year from the riff backing that suddenly blasts in towards the end – like a jam-session head. Nelson, calmer, cooler, more conventional. But something appealing about his playing. That riffing blasts back in... Wyands spins a skilful chorus before the two altos head on out. Williams oddly only plays backup on this track... Booting along joyfully...

Andrew Hill, and 'Flea Flop' taken from his album 'Judgement!' A quartet with Bobby Hutcherson, the vibes giving a cerebral edge, up first, spurred on by the wonderful Davis and Elvin Jones's always probing drums. Davis takes a mobile, expressive solo, fast flurries in all registers. Hill cascades into his solo, double-timing and bouncing the rhythms round. Jones takes over, expressive and rumbling polyrhythms before the ensemble ends. This music is contained by its form and genre – but only just, Hill playing his inside/game to perfection here.

Art Tatum was a consummate soloist, of course. But he made some fascinating records with other musicians – here with Benny Carter and Louis Bellson. An easy ride into the theme by solo piano before the alto and fairly understated drums join in at the second chorus. Carter - finely-honed elegance with a smear of the blues in unexpected places, understated power – one of the great alto players. Tatum takes up the game – the usual trade-mark easy swing and virtuoso runs that disrupt and suspend it. A fairly sudden ending. Is this what they mean by 'timeless?'

To end – another mercurial pianist... yes, here's Cecil (again!)... but according to the hits these tracks are popular so...

From 'Serdab' – an almost restrained beginning, successive waves of ensemble and piano – one always separates the two, despite the grammar, it's always band AND Cecil. Raphe Malik clear and cutting, the violin adding an extra textural dimension, Lyons hanging back at first. Some almost bluesy licks from Cecil about five minutes in. Shannon Jackson makes his presence felt with some rumbling bass drum bombs although he sounds a little buried in the mix (along with Sirone). Despite the usual Taylor pyrotechnical crash and scrabble, quite a melodic track, with plenty of breathing space due to the episodic, processional nature of its unfolding...

Gene Ammons/Dodo Marmarosa
(Gene Ammons: Tenor Saxophone; Dodo Marmorosa: piano; Sam Jones: bass; Marshall Thompson: drums).
You're driving me crazy


Oliver Nelson
(Oliver Nelson, Eric Dolphy: alto saxophones; Richard Williams: trumpet; Richard Wyands: piano; George Duvivier: bass; Roy Haynes: drums).


Art Tatum
(Art Tatum: piano; Benny Carter: alto saxophone; Louis Bellson: drums)
I'm left with the blues in my heart


Andrew Hill
(Andrew Hill: piano; Bobby Hutcherson: vibes; Richard Davis: bass; Elvin Jones: drums).
Flea flop


Cecil Taylor Unit
(Jimmy Lyons: alto saxophone; Raphe Malik: trumpet; Ramsey Ameen: violin; Sirone: bass; Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums).


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