Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Stan Getz/J. J. Johnson... Hampton Hawes... Sonny Rollins... John Coltrane... Ornette Coleman...

Stan Getz was always labelled as the epitome of the 'cool school.' Yet there is a funkier edge to his playing – here with the king of bebop trombone, J.J. Johnson, in a live recording of 'My Funny Valentine,' (another one of the Norman Granz concerts from the fifties that the Gillespie/Stitt posts came from) he gives out some archetypal smearing bluesy phrases when he digs in. And also some prime fast blowing - Getz was a master of his instrument. Here, I can track the Lester influence – and also, oddly, I get the ghost of Gerry Mulligan if I imagine the tenor transposed down to baritone range... maybe it's the tune, associated with Mulligan and Chet Baker's classic version. Although – in the early sixties sometime, Mulligan recorded with Getz on tenor as well as his usual horn, he played tenor in the forties before concentrating on baritone - and Getz also swapped to baritone on that session... but maybe Lester is at the back of it all, anyway, for both men... J.J sounds effortlessly fluent, bouncing of the rhythms and rising to the live competitive edge of the occasion. Peterson and the guitar player are fairly inaudible – the backing dominated by the thudding bass and Stan Levy's crisp drums. The front line top it off with some contrapuntal improvising – very west-coasting... On a minor discographical note – a little confusion over the drummer – I've gone for Connie Kay rather than Louis Bellson...

Hampton Hawes was born with six fingers on each hand, apparently – surgically corrected soon afterwards. Hawes was also unusual among modern jazz pianists in that he could not read music... not so unusual: he had a fucked-up life due to various factors but mainly perhaps because of the blight of addiction that put him in jail and disrupted his career. Taken from his album 'The Sermon,' this reading of the old spiritual 'Go Down Moses' has much poignancy... Supported by Vinnegar's solid bass and Stan Levey's understated swing, he lays out a boppish display, spiced with the blues that always lurks not too far away in his playing... the sacred and the profane...

'Blue Seven' is taken from Sonny Rollin's magisterial and correctly named album 'Saxophone Collossus,' recorded in 1956. Doug Watkins strolls in on bass, an easy lope, before Rollins enters and states the theme – an abrupt and enigmatic playing off the old bop tritone substitution, apparently impovised/composed on the spot. His special use of thematic improvisation, spotlighted in the famous Gunther Schuller
article (scroll down ) in Jazz Review, 1958, (which allegedly caused Rollins to take one of his famous sabbaticals), is well displayed here – something he shared with Monk – from where it may have came? Speculations, ah, speculations... But from simple material, Rollins spins complex and coherent music. Flanagan is an elegant player, taking a couple of bluesy choruses, Max heavy on the cymbal back beat. A brief tenor interlude then the drummer solos – playing across that steady cymbal two and four, melodic and disruptively syncopated. Max always solos musically as well as rhythmically – you can hear his melodic flow clearly...

...the other tenor saxophone collossus was, of course (you dispute it?) John Coltrane. Who overshadowed Rollins up to his untimely death in 1967 – and probably for many years after although Rollins longevity and good health have kept him in the game – and still playing as one of jazz's elder statemen with plenty left to say... This is JC with Rashied Ali, playing 'Saturn,' from his late-on album 'Interstellar Space.' Ushered in on drums, a winding spiral when Coltrane comes in and uses the multi-spatial elements of Ali's rhythms to perform an exhasting and relentless journey across the parameters of the tenor – and beyond... per saxophonus ad astra...

So many years to wait for an Ornette Coleman recording – what's going on out there? This is 'Sleep Talking' from 'Sound Grammar,' recorded in Germany by the same band that I saw last year at the Barbican on the same tour. Tony Falanga bows the slow, sad melody over Cohen's pizzicato – bass roles they stick to throughout – then Denardo's bass drum thumps and Ornette comes to state the melody again, shadowed by the basses. A slow unfolding... Cohen solos over Falanga's backing counterpoint – fragments of the theme peeping through - and some rattling percussion from Denardo, in places suggesting a slow, lurching bluesy backbeat. Ornette returns and plays pithily, that inimitably human tone still strongly in place – the epitome of 'vocalised' tone – as he improvises – well, thematically, you would have to call it, as above with Sonny Rollins. As he always did, but in a freer way... The plucked bass speeds things along – on one plane - Ornette's music has always seemed to move on simultaneously different levels at times, leaving him free to float across or lock onto the beat. The audience dug it mightily...

In the Videodrome...

Miles at the Isle of Wight Festival...

...and in Karlsruhe, 1967...

... and playing 'So What' on the Steve Allen show...

Stan Getz/J J Johnson
(Stan Getz: tenor saxophone; J.J. Johnson: trombone; Herb Ellis: guitar; Oscar Peterson: piano; Ray Brown: bass; Conny Kay: drums).
My Funny Valentine


Hampton Hawes
(Hampton Hawes: piano; Leroy Vinnegar: bass; Stan Levey: drums).
Go Down Moses


Sonny Rollins
(Sonny Rollins, ts - Tommy Flanagan, p - Doug Watkins, b - Max Roach, ds )
Blue Seven


John Coltrane
(John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Rashied Ali: drums).


Ornette Coleman
(Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone; Greg Cohen, Tony Falanga: basses; Denardo Coleman: drums).
Sleep Talking


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