Let's start with some forties bebop: Stan Getz in 1949 playing 'Crazy Chords.' A tour de force for Stan, changing key every chorus in a bravura display, ushered in by the speedy elegance of Haig. Gatz extends the school of Lester into his own technically flamboyant space – dexterity - melodic and harmonic - and gorgeous tone to match...
Wardell Gray – another from the jazz Legion of the Lost, dying under mysterious circumstances in 1955. Here he is playing 'Twisted,' (also later made famous in the Annie Ross version). An odd latin-y intro – then straight into the blues. Gray also came out of Lester (via Bird) but by 1949 when these tracks were recorded he was firmly his own man, tone slightly darker than Prez, a tough yet supple quality to his lines. Backed by Charlie Parker's rhythm section – Al Haig delivers classic, rippling bebop piano. Tommy Potter – a nice bass solo, going beyond the usual steady four to the bar before Wardell returns – Haynes dropping obligatory but apposite bombs.
Serge Chaloff was one of the top bop baritone players (the best according to many), heading up against Gerry Mulligan. Another tragic character – after giving up the addiction that blighted his life, he died from cancer in 1957. This live recording from 1949 of the Denzil Best tune 'Move' (more famous, perhaps, in its rendition by the Miles Davis Birth of the Cool band a year before) is taken at a fast run. The fiery trumpet is apparently – Miles himself... which made me check the discography. Some critics would have it that he couldn't play as well as this and at this tempo... Chaloff solos and puts the big horn smoothly through its bebop paces. Sonny Stitt powers in for some fast Bird-type blowing yet – you can hear his tone is slightly different to Parker's, despite the lurking presence – Stitt always under the shadow of the master – unfairly... Combative... Trombone - Benny Green, having no problems keeping up... Bud Powell positively clambers in for his solo – dazzling, stomping stuff. Max takes a quick spot before a brief exchange between the horns and back into the theme...
Into the fifties... one can never have too much Clifford Brown... He was a trumpeter who possessed in abundance: ideas, tone, fire, driven by the (joy) spring of youth... sadly dying in a car crash... for those in peril on the road should be the hymn for musicians... here he is, in 1956, a few months before his fatal accident, with Max Roach and their co-led quintet, Rollins newly added to the tenor seat and Richie Powell, Bud's brother (who died with Brownie in the crash) on piano, plus George Borrow on bass... An alternate take of 'What is this thing called love?' Starting on an odd trumpet flutter (shades of later Bill Dixon!) then drums as the bass and piano hold a pedal point under trumpet and tenor, building the groove before Brown goes fleetly into the theme, answered by Rollins in the middle eight, trumpet returns for last eight then: Brownie out of the trap and going strong – joyous playing, he never seems content to run changes, always a strong melodic thread. Rollins seems almost diffident in comparison initially before building his own strong solo... Powell – swift and clean single note lines with a bluesy edge. Borrow, solid throughout, takes a four to the bar solo. Max back in the mix but making his presence felt. Brief ensemble, bass, drums and return of ensemble – then Max, a pithily complex solo, return of horns, playing tag. Definitive of where small band bop was at the time... stretching out more because of new recording techniques, some of the frenetic compressed fury of the older records removed in place of new spaces to breath...
George Russell was in the shadows for many years before he was finally and belatedly recognised for his compositional and arranging abilities – but also for his behind-the-scenes influence on the direction of jazz as bebop moved towards the linearities of modality. He reminds me of another august survivor, Andrew Hill, in that they both constructed strategies that enable their musicians to move outside while keeping the roots inside. This is the title track from his 1961 album 'Ezz-thetics.' Hearing it again makes me think of many of those soon to come Blue Note sessions that incorporated new ideas within a solid rhythmic framework. The theme – like a complex bebop line stretched out into another dimension, based on the chords of 'Love for Sale.' Baker solos, fast and firm – giving a few quotes in time-honoured bop fashion – 'I love Paris' and 'Bebop.' The trumpet of Don Ellis, bright and sharp... another whose star sank into obscurity after his untimely death. Then Eric Dolphy, who really seems to grasp what this is about – fast, urgent and skittering against the harmonic boundaries in long, flowing lines. A round of fours between horns and drums and piano... fragment of theme into a collapsing ending of seemingly free blowing... almost a harbinger...
Moving swifly on, as they say... jumpcut to 1995. John Zorn, Derek Bailey on electric guitar and William Parker, from a live set at the Knitting Factory. Free improvisation... interestingly, Parker's bass gives more of an overt 'jazz' feel than is usual for Bailey, coupled to the sax lines of Zorn. Bailey is fairly restrained at first, then as they collectively hot up, he starts dropping flinty shards of guitar and those inimitably crabby fast strummed runs as Parker goes deep and Zorn flies across the top with corrugated buzzing and textural noise– horn and guitar timbrally matched sporadically. This is one of the places the music went to... the wilder side of free improv...
I was intending to put up 'Bitches Brew,' but Savefile seems to have problems - I will try to repost it later...
(Stan Getz: tenor saxophone; Al Haig: piano; Gene Ramey: bass; Stan Levey: drums).
(Wardell Gray: tenor saxophone; Al Haig: piano; Tommy Potter: bass; Roy Haynes: drums).
(Miles Davis: trumpet; Bennie Green: trombone; Sonny Stitt: alto saxophone; Serge Chaloff: baritone saxophone; Bud Powell: piano; Curly Russell: bass; Max Roach: Max Roach: drums).
Clifford Brown/Max Roach
(Clifford Brown: trumpet; Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone; Richie Powell: piano: George Morrow: bass: Max Roach: drums).
What is this thing called love? (Alternate take)
(George Russell: piano; Eric Dolphy: alto saxophone; Dave Baker: trombone; Don Ellis: trumpet; Steve Swallow: bass; Joe Hunt: drums).
John Zorn/Derek Bailey/William Parker
(John Zorn: alto saxophone; Derek Bailey: electric guitar; William Parker: bass).