Back to business...
Dizzie Gillespie made a few of these summit-type albums where the masters gather – here he is in 1957, again with Sonny Stitt and adding Sonny Rollins, playing 'After Hours.'. Ray Bryant down and dirty opens it up... harking back to beyond the dawn of bop with a fragmentary left hand that hints at boogie and laying the blues firmly down before the horns come in – a quick sax sax smear - then muted Gillespie. Essaying in restrained fashion (for Diz, sans the usual pyrotechnics). Rollins gives some throaty choruses. Stitt follows him and wins on points (He was a competive jammer...). Bryant's raw rolling piano holds it all together. One reviewer on Amazon hated it and thought it all rambled aimlessly – to each their own...
Joe Henderson recorded 'State of the Tenor' in 1985, live at the Village Vanguard . That title – a bold statement... Ron Carter leads it in with a frisky intro, then Henderson states the theme, takes it up an octave, decorating it with frilly, almost joky trills. Monk's tune can seem intractable to improvisation as the chords ominously circle over and over... a two bar section of four descending sevenths, G7, F7, Eflat7, D7, repeated to form a sixteen bar theme... a test of will and imagination. With just bass and drums in support, Henderson gives the tune a lighter treatment than the dark humour of the composer's versions and creates room for manoeuvre, spinning off and finding a freedom not obviously embedded in the theme's structure. Aided greatly by Carter who varies his accompaniments away from overstating the relentless repeating chords. Foster subtle in the background, emerging with some splashes of colour and prodding interjections late in. Foster was, of course, a close confidant of Miles Davis and held down the drum chair in his bands for a long stretch from the seventies onwards... Free space here discovered inside the tradition...
Two live ones from Ornette... one with Joachim Kuhn from 1996... the other from The Golden Circle in 1965. The duo track is 'Night Plans,' slowly ushered in by Kuhn's thoughtfully astringent piano. In this unusual environment for Ornette (although he had recorded with pianists, these were fairly rare occurences), he enters and sings out the theme, sparse and achingly bluesy and beautiful. His alto sounds fractionally out to the piano which gives the track a slightly unsettling feel – there can be no true resolution or homecoming. Kuhn returns in more rhapsodic mode, filling in the spaces with rolling, progressively scampering lines in searching interrogation. Ornette returns, spartan over Kuhn's fulsome backing, stretching out eventually into some bouncing interplay with the piano. Ending on a smeared note bent slightly upwards – Ornette going in-between the orthodoxies of harmony to find his own space? Sublime...
'Doughnuts' is from the mighty Golden Circle sessions – bouncing in at a fast lick, this is Ornette with one of his great bands, Izenson and Moffett. So much room here... Moffette holding up a fairly orthodox cymbal beat as the bass grounds it deep. The interplay between these three was revelatory. Ornette spinning out melodies and variations to glory... Compare this trio to Joe Henderson's, twenty years later...
Denmark was a fruitful place for the sixties avant-garde – Albert Ayler recorded this session for radio with the teenage prodigy bass player Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson, Ronnie Gardner on drums and Niels Bronsted on piano, a couple of months after his first album.
The best track – because the piano drops out, who had problems hearing what Ayler was attempting – as did many, then and since, to be fair – is a tribute to Cecil Taylor, whom he had played prior to the recording. 'C.T.' With just bass and drums, less confusion... as they try to follow the American sax visionary. And do a reasonable job. Pederson takes a brief solo and utters a spanish-tinged phrase that Ayler picks up and runs with. Another succesful occurrence of this melodic ball-tossing occurs about eight minutes in... displaying that Ayler is listening closely to his bass player as well as vice versa. Gardner engages in a similar game towards the end, tossing out rhythms that Ayler catches. What sounds like a spurt of 'The Marseillaise' pops up just before the end... A fascinating document of a music in flux, not always successful as the bass and drums struggle at times to figure out the directions. But overall, a brave venture into the new as Ayler proceeds to find his voice and follow his star...
More transitional work... Here is C.T. in 1960, with Buell Neidlinger, Dennis Charles and Archie Shepp playing 'Lazy Afternoon.' Shepp doesn't always sound too comfortable on this album but plays a brave solo here, Cecil almost straight comping at times behind him as they settle into a lurching beat, the bass playing long sections of straight quarter notes, sometimes on one and three. Cecil playing over a standard sequence in the early days is always fascinating – seeing where and how he will smack it out of shape and bend it to his own imperious will.
Dizzie Gillespie/Sonny Stitt/Sonny Rollins
(Dizzie Gillespie: trumpet; Sonny Stitt: alto saxophone; Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone; Ray Bryant: piano; bass: Tommy Bryant; Charlie Persip: drums).
(Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone; Ron Carter: bass; Al Foster: drums.)
Friday the Thirteenth
(Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone; Joachim Kuhn: piano).
(Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone; David Izenson: bass; Charles Moffett: drums).
(Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone; Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson: bass; Ronnie Gardiner: drums).
(Cecil Taylor: piano; Archie Shepp: tenor; Buell Neidlinger: bass; Dennis Charles: drums).