Friday, February 09, 2007

Coleman Hawkins... Sonny Rollins... Muntu... Lee Konitz/Gerry Mulligan... Earl Hines... Sam Rivers...

I've been listening to a lot of Coleman Hawkins recently – going back to the Fountainhead, as it were (with apologies to Ayn Rand)... This is Bean playing 'Bird of Prey Blues.' Hank Jones leads them into an uppish, straightforward blues theme – Hawkins starts off breathy and sparse, building to longer lines after the first chorus. Crisp drumming and solid bass sustain the Hawk's flight – plus some riffing piano from Jones. Jones shows his class in the next solo. Buck Clayton then, graceful yet with no little fire. Brown walks his way in straight on four for a chorus then opens it up. Stanley Dance set up this 50's session and his work with Hawkins and others, released on the Felstead label helped to bring a clutch of over-looked players back into the critical eye - under the term 'mainstream:'

'Mainstream was intended to identify performers who were not playing either traditional jazz or bebop. Since good jazz, regardless of style, "swung," to describe someone as a swing player seemed redundant. Dance himself used the term "casually and briefly" and felt that "for a time it was an adequate label." His intent was to identify players who had made considerable contributions and were still in their prime, making vital music yet were not being recorded.'
(From here... scroll down...).

Jumping on a few years – one of my favourite standards 'Where or when,' played at the post-9/11 concert in Boston by Sonny Rollins. Stretching the melody as the trombone of Clifton Anderson weaves round him – to take the foreground as Rollins drops back and eventually out. Anderson refers extensively to the theme in his solo... Piano next, with some Jarrett-esque vocal doubling of the line – straight-ahead stuff with some quotes in bebop fashion. Rollins comes in slightly off-mike – then starts to mix it up. An emotional recording, obviously. Rollins said on the evening:

'“We must remember that music is one of the beautiful things in life, so we have to try to keep the music alive in some kind of way. Maybe music can help; I don’t know, but we have to try something these days.”

Albert Ayler channelled by Muntu at the Vision Festival 2002... I saw Roy Cambell last November at the London Jazz Festival fronting up Marc Ribot's tribute to Ayler group and he was great. He shows his chops here – from low growls to high rips. Moondoc has been around a while, coming off the free jazz side of things but with a salty lyricism all his own. Collective improv then the alto steps up to solo. Joined again by Campbell for more ensemble – then the track fades on Cambell out on his own. Parker does some interesting games with time – from fast thrumming walk to half speed to probing stabs and Bakr underpins strongly – up in the mix.

'Loverman' on alto has strong connotations of Charlie Parker's broodingly tragic version – Lee Konitz evades the long shadow (as he did from the start of his career onwards) in a poignant reading with Mulligan and Baker in support. His piping, pure sound and melodic invention cut through over the grumbling deep baritone and distant trumpet. An abrupt ending... Ice cool yet with a nugget of emotional fire buried deep...

More 'mainstream'... 'Cottontail' - coming out at speed – Earl Hines and a bunch of Ellington men, recorded in 1966. Hines in fine form, swapping eights and stomping and striding his way to glory...

Sam Rivers and his Big Band – a tribute to his wife – 'Beatrice.' A re-interpretation of the tune he first recorded way back... this date, that produced the album 'Inspiration,' was his first in many years. As they say, go figure... The good news - Rivers is one of the flip-siders to the 'tragic jazz musicians die young' coin – a sprightly octogenarian who stills knocks out stimulating music. This track takes the sixteen bar theme and runs with it through a stack of solos, the majestic and unusual ensemble generating blocks of sound in unconventional fashion... Rivers has a special way with moving his big band musician through the musical space - more 'inside' than some of the tracks on the album... but who cares about labels anymore... 'mainstream' anyone?

In the Videodrome...

...Joe Bowie's Defunkt...

... Bean and Bird...

... Jackie McLean...

... Scott Hamilton and Wayne Shorter...

...and some Chinese music (Isn't that what Louis Armstrong called Bebop, originally?)...
... a tip of the bebop beret to the Irish Improvised Music Company, who sent me this in an email...

Coleman Hawkins
(Coleman Hawkins (ts); Buck Clayton (t); Hank Jones (p); Ray Brown (b); Mickey Sheen (d) ).
Bird of Prey Blues


Sonny Rollins
(Sonny Rollins (ts); Clifton Anderson (trb); Stephen Scott (p); Bob Cranshaw (b); Perry Wilson (d); Kimati Dinizuli (perc) ).
Where or when


(Jemeel Moondoc (as); Roy Cambell (t); William Parker (b) Rashid Bakr (d) ).
The truth is marching in


Lee Konitz/Gerry Mulligan Quartet
(Lee Konitz (as); Gerry Mulligan (bs); Chet Baker (t); Carson Smith (b); Larry Bunker (d) ).
Lover Man


Earl Hines
(Earl Hines-(p); Cat Anderson, Bill Berry, Ray Nance, Clark Terry-(t); Lawrence Brown, Buster Cooper (trb); Jimmy Hamilton (cl, ts); Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope (as); Harold Ashby, Paul Gonsalves (ts); Richard Davis (b); Sonny Greer (d) ).


Sam Rivers
(Sam Rivers (f, ss, ts); James Zollar, Ravi Best, Ralph Alessi, Baikida Carroll(t); Art Baron, Joseph Bowie(trmb); Steve Coleman, Greg Osby (as); Chico Freeman, Gary Thomas (ts); (Joe Daley (bs); Bob Stewart (tu); Doug Mathews (b); Anthony Cole (d)



Sam said...

Hi Rod,

My name is Sam Gale Rosen, I'm a producer for Radio Open Source, a nationally syndicated public radio program based in Boston.

We're having Sonny Rollins on our show tonight, and we like to get ideas for questions from knowledgeable and interesting bloggers. Do you have any questions you've always wanted to ask Sonny?

If you do, please contribute to our comment thread here (, and we'll look at your ideas and hopefully use them on the show. Just drop me an email (sam radioopensource org) if you have any questions or problems registering on the site. Thanks!


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