I am always fascinated by the variety that 'jazz' has offered throughout its relatively short history... and I am not being coy by inserting the word between inverted commas... the area that the word tries to map has always been fought over...
Cecil Taylor recorded 'Bulbs' in 1961 as one of the tracks on one side of an album released under Gil Evans' name: 'Into the Hot.' (The other side was taken up with compositions by Johnny Carisi,the composer of 'Israel'). Transitional stuff... Lyons solos – bebop stretched to fluidly accommodate the new freedoms - and Archie Shepp does a manful job – but the track is made by the thumping piano of the leader over the dream rhythm section of Henry Grimes and Sunny Murray. 'Bulbs' is a fascinating composition – abstract lines rubbing against riffs – like the leader's solo which starts with a fairly conventional phrase and then hops skips and jumps into other dimensions. A mirror of the transitional state...
Bill Evans recorded with Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh in 1977. (There was a previous encounter in 1959). 'Night and Day' opens with the two horns weaving round each other in an airy dance. Marsh frequently plays high up the tenor so the timbres are closely matched – then Evans springs in with bass and drums – some almost Tatumesque flourishes and variations on the tune. Marsh takes a stop time break then solos in that unpredictable line of his. This is linearity supreme, Tristano school – unravelling the changes horizontally. Marsh was one of the unsung greats. As is Konitz – whom I missed a few weeks back at the London Jazz Festival. He solos next – with more muscle than one would usually expect – Evans getting quite animated behind him, sounding like he was having fun. Some breaks and everyone briefly all in – Marsh finally dropping deep for the final tenor note. Stirring stuff...
'Can one of you guys start the blues in C?' Eddie Condon commences this live track from 1971 – late Chicago Dixieland, his hybrid style carried through from the twenties and developed by the force of his will as much as anything. Condon, a banjo player and later guitarist was never a featured intrumentalist, preferring to strum in the rhythm section - and perhaps more to the point, make his mark as a bandleader and fixer of sessions – including some of the first integrated ones with Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller. And a nightclub proprietor – and character... a pre-modern Ronnie Scott... (His book, 'We Called it Music' is worth a read...). I've always liked his music, something about the anarchic boozy spirit of it... Condon famously dissed bebop – 'They flat their fifths, we drink ours...' But plenty of beboppers dissed the coming avant garde... and so it goes... Hi Wynton... Here, we have consummate trad/mainstream jazz – Wellstood and Davern could, I reckon, fit into most jazz paradigms. Krupa sounds the most unsure, his drums a bit clumping. A slow, drawling blues – led by Wild Bill's trumpet and Davern's homage-y but not blatantly servile out-of-Bechet soprano. In their own way, an irreverent and joyful keeping to the trad virtues – sort of Marsalis with humour...
Getting near to Xmas – better dust off that MJQ track for the looming carol season. For now, Roland Kirk blasting his way through 'We Free Kings.' Ho ho ho – the man for whom the adjective 'inimitable' always suggests itself inexorably... Powering in on all his horns, mutant and otherwise – including some funky flute.
To finish with – a big beast of a track – reverse the name and what do you get – Davis = Sivad. Miles turned the jazz world on its head with 'Bitches Brew' – this is a live (mainly – Teo Macero chopped and mixed in the studio later) set recorded at the Cellar Door in 1970. Starting off on a declaratory drum roll and going into a fast-paced bass-heavy vamp as Miles whah whahs over the rock (in both senses) solid Michael Henderson and Jack De Johnette lay down, the track mutates into a slow, ominous bluesy groove. McLoughlin plays a nifty solo – his guitar tone sounding almost synth-like. The English guitar player always participated in The Prince of Darkness's musics as if to the manner borne... Followed by Keith Jarrett in the days before he renounced the electric piano as the keyboard of the devil or something similar (Get thee behind me, fusion). Miles returns with an open horn stab and a couple of skewed phrases before building up some longer lines – and the track dies abruptly. In the longer and slower section, interesting to note how much space there is in the rhythm – which gives the drummer room to state the beat and also play across it – jazz-rock-fusion unfortunately, in the main, never successfully managed this combination – of jazz and rock....
In the Videodrome...
Eddie Condon on YouTube...
Sidney Bechet over in France in the 1950's playing the St Louis Blues...
Roland Kirk in Europe playing 'Bag's Groove'...
Cecil Taylor (p) Jimmy Lyons (as) Archie Shepp (ts) Ted Curson (t) Roswell Rudd (tb) Henry Grimes (b) Sunny Murray (d)
Bill Evans/Lee Konitz/Warner Marsh
Lee Konitz (as) Warne Marsh (ts) Bill Evans (p) Eddie Gomez (b) Eliot Zigmund (d)
Kenny Davern (ss); Wild Bill Davison (cnt); Dick Wellstood (p); Eddie Condon (g); Gene Krupa (d).
Blues in C
Roland Kirk (ts, mzo, str, fl, siren); Hank Jones (p); Wendell Marshall (b); Charlie Persip (d)
We Free Kings
Miles Davis (t); Gary Bartz (ts); John McLoughlin (eg); Keith Jarrett (ep); Michael Henderson (b); Airto Moreira (perc); Jack De Johnette (d)