Thursday, March 15, 2007

Charles Mingus...Paul Bley... Art Tatum/Ben Webster... Evan Parker/Anthony Braxton/Paul Rutherford...John Zorn

No Mingus for a week or two... hereby rectified... with a track from his album 'Mingus Plays Piano – where he acquits himself pretty well... 'I can't get started.' A pensive, ruminative beginning – this feels like eavesdropping on a late night, the composer at the keyboard peering and probing into the harmonic innards of the tune...

Mingus here again... on bass for Paul Bley's first record date, in 1953 at the age of 21 – with Art Blakey. Mingus leads in briefly before the piano takes the blues theme. One notices the space in Bley's lines as the choruses roll out. Some fluent playing from Charles who displays his melodic credentials. Blakey is almost unobtrusive until he lets out on of those crashing press-rolls at the end of the bass solo – which seems to enervate Bley who plays more fulsomely – moving into block-chords towards the end of the track.

A quartet... recorded in 1956. A few weeks before he died, Art Tatum went in to the studios with Ben Webster. One of the tracks produced was 'Have you met Miss Jones.' Tatum still polarises opinion: many think he played too many notes... I like Art, can forgive him the overkill as that was essentially part of his style as a virtuoso whose imagination poured out in torrents. Interestingly enough, if you stripped out most of the notes, I suspect that you would come near to Thelonious Monk's playing. Supported solidly by Red Callender and Bill Douglas who have enough sense to keep out of the way, this is Ben on almost minimal tenor – more concerned with sound and timbre, that inimitable and unmistakable sound – a whooshing, heavily romantic voice – and Tatum on cascading piano... a different kind of elegance and grace...

More Art... solo now, playing 'Smoke get's in your eyes.' A beautiful balance on this track, I would argue – between almost laid-back and reflective playing of the sad, winsome melody – and the wonderful disruptions that suddenly burst to the surface, knocking the steady stride into more complicated asymmetries, those bubbling cross-keyboard runs tangling up the melody in an exhaustive interrogation...

From pianos to no pianos... A trio of improvisors caught together in 1993 – Anthony Braxton, Evan Parker and Paul Rutherford... 'The Honker.' A three way conversation starts to unfold slowly, three lines divurging, coming together, commenting and complementing... Rutherford is a rather undersung hero – here he especially displays his mastery of the improvised trombone vocabulary, his gruff voice fleshing out the higher and sharper timbres of the saxophones... a long track, necessarily, because of the ideas, information to be imparted by the combined imaginations and techniques...

John Zorn does not like to be tied down (stylistically, I hasten to add...)... his Spy V Spy album crashed Ornette Coleman songs into the hardcore aesthetic... his album 'Weird Little Boy,' released in 1998, takes this further, on this track, 'A Lungfull of Water,' using heavy metal/noise guitars and soundscapes criss-crossing to produce a dark ground where the the instruments distort and howl until finally splintering into a final shatter... tracing a line out of jazz into the noise world where many current cross-fertilisations are continuing to produce some of the most stimulating music around... a long way from the 32bar standard chord progression...
According to this article:

'Every performer on the recording has at some point professed their distaste for the project. Most vocal on this subject was Trey Spruance:

"At the risk of sounding ironic which I do NOT intend, The Weird Little Boy thing absolutely sucks, and buying it would be a waste of anyone's hard-earned money. I have to apologize to anyone who may have bought it for the reason that I play on it. Sorry!",

Chacun à son goût...

In the Videodrome...

Evan Parker and Tony Hyams here...

... Ornette...

Ken Vandermark in Poland...

Charles Mingus (p)
I can't get started


Paul Bley
Paul Bley (p) Charles Mingus (b) Art Blakey (d)
Spontaneous Combustion


Art Tatum/Ben Webster
Art Tatum (p) Ben Webster (ts) Red Callender (b) Bill Marshall (d)
Have you met Miss Jones?


Art Tatum (p)
Smoke gets in your eyes


Evan Parker (ts, ss) Anthony Braxton (as, sops) Paul Rutherford (tr)
The Honker


John Zorn
John Zorn (key, as, samplers Trey Spruance (g, d, key) Mike Patton (d, v) Chris Cochrane (g)
Lungfull of water


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