Saturday, March 03, 2007

Jackie McLean... Sonny Rollins... Gil Evans... John Zorn... Phil Woods/Johnny Griffin... Roscoe Mitchell...

Jackie Mclean 1978. Thirty years before, as a budding young sax player he was taken under the wing of Bird (groan... but I couldn't resist it!). On this date – homage... with the old bop warhorse 'Confirmation,' taken at a reasonable pace, but with an unhurried, relaxed feel – tune and players being old friends, after all. McLean solos pleasantly – but one wonders whether some of the adventurous edge he had displayed in the sixties would have been more interestingly brought to bear on this material – I was thinking of some of Anthony Braxton's returns to the bop tradition where he manages to drag the tunes into a contemporary dimension while still retaining respect for their origins. Carping, maybe – McLean is a redoubtable player – a few knotty runs here and there to remind us of his original mentor on sax – and his own furthering of that inheritance. And maybe more slyly subversive than I have suggested – the relaxed pace is far from the frenetic wahoo of orginal bebop – and the usual Mclean spikiness. Hank Jones solos - as reliably elegant as ever – always a class act. An exchange of fours between the ensemble allow the rhythm section space to show their chops – Williams ripping out a few bars to remind us of his power – which is also throttled back throughout most of this track. Satisfying... but one expects more from, McLean, perhaps...

Sonny Rollins at the Village Vanguard in 1957. Stomping in an uppish asymmetrical dance across the standard 'I've got you under my skin.' Recorded twenty years before the last track, it seems more free, somehow – just Rollins with bass and drums as he explores the nooks and crannies of the tune with Don Bailey's steady bass and La Roca up in the mix behind him, parrying his lines. Rollins, a supreme melodicist, his solo pulling out fragments of theme and tossing them this way and that while always retaining an architectural coherence that sees way beyond the next few bars and chords. 8 bar trades with the drummer strike fire... Bailey come in for a fast stroll over the four four with fragments of horn sporadically inserted and insistent hihat. One of the great live recordings?

Gil Evans:

'The brisk Monk favorite is tagged here with a polyphonic, multi-horn blowout that simultaneously recalls New Orleans Dixieland while pointing the way toward the avant garde movements of the ‘60s.' (From here...).

Gil opens the track with some of his dissonant bluesy rippling piano clusters. Johnny Coles plays a restrained, delicately coloured solo – followed by Steve Lacy, who knew Monk's material well – and proves it here. The ensemble gathers power behind the trombone solo – before Gil returns for some more Monkish stabs. Band again – soaring steadily into that 'polyphonic, multi-horn blowout,' striped here and there by Evans' piano – which returns again for more solo work. Interesting resonances – Gil playing off Monk but adding his own colour...

More homage – from John Zorn to Ornette, from his album 'Spy vs Spy.' A two horn assault on 'Mob Job,' with the two drummers clattering away across a very spacy mix and Mark Dresser in floating bass support. This album was famous for its all-out grabbing of Coleman's material by the throat – a hardcore rock aesthetic from start to finish. Yet – the essence remains – that free floating theme across doubled rhythms which is a well-known Ornette tactic is gainfully employed here, for example... in fact, more reverence than meets the immediate ear, perhaps – how can you out-Ornette, after all? One of those pivotal albums that display connections beyond jazz that were not so obvious once - but now, given the growing links between noise rock and improv...

Another oddity... Phil Woods and Johnny Griffin, playing 'Hand in Glove.' Both saxophonists had of course played with Monk – an interesting link, further strengthened by the presence of the drummer on this session, Ben Riley. Woods first, riding lithely across the changes. Mr Griffin next, in affable mood, it seems. Followed by Cedar Walton, a bright solo, in keeping with the overall mood of the piece, interposing a quote from 'Coming through the Rye' towards the end in grand bop fashion. Alto and tenor swap lines in friendly combat. Nothing angst-ridden or earth-shattering perhaps – just first-class musicians on a bouncing, breezy date. Quality...

Roscoe Mitchell and a quintet from 2005. A swirling storm as the ensemble criss-cross each other's lines on 'Take One.' So much acoustic ground is covered that it seems like a bigger band. Mitchell sounds like an angry, buzz-sawing giant wasp, Corey Wilkes trumpet is declamatory but further back in the mix than the saxophone, giving an odd balance(but he sounds like a find), the piano of Craig Taborn Taylor-esque in its relentless barrage of notes across the registers. The storm ebbs to leave trumpet and drums – then just drums... the resonations of the cymbals cutting crisply through the now-cleared air... Fiery stuff...

Jackie Mclean/The Great Jazz Trio
(Jackie Mclean (as); Hank Jones (p); Ron Carter (b); Tony Williams (d) ).


Sonny Rollins
(Sonny Rollins (ts) Don Bailey (b) Pete LaRoca (d) ).
I've got you under my skin


Gil Evans
Collective personnel for album:
Gil Evans (p); Johnny Coles, Louis Mucci, Ernie Royal, Clyde Reasinger, Allen Smith, Danny Stiles (t); Frank Rehak, Joe Bennett, Tom Mitchell, Bill Elton, Curtis Fuller, Dick Lieb, Jimmy Cleveland, Rod Levitt (tr); Julius Watkins, Bob Northern, Earl Chapin (fr h); Harvey Phillips, Bill Barber (tu); Cannonball Adderley, Eddie Caine, (as); Gerald Sanfino, Phil Bodner, Al Block (f, cl); Steve Lacy (ss); Chuck Wayne, Ray Crawford (g); Paul Chambers, Dick Carter, Tommy Potter (b); Philly Joe Jones, Art Blakey, Dennis Charles, Elvin Jones (d) ).
Straight no chaser


John Zorn
(John Zorn, Tim Berne (as); Mark Dresser (b); Michael Vatcher, Joey Baron (d) ).
Mob Job


Phil Woods/Johnny Griffin
(Phil Woods (as); Johnny Griffin (ts); Cedar Walton (p); Peter Washington (b); Ben Riley (d) ).
Hand in Glove


Roscoe Mitchell Quintet
(Roscoe Mitchell (as); Corey Wilkes (t); Craig Taborn (p); Jaribu Shahid (b); Tani Tabal (d) ).
Take One


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