Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Shelly Manne... Art Pepper/Zoot Sims... Elmo Hope... JJ Johnson/Kai Winding... Ludacris... Ray Charles... Steve Coleman... Terry Riley...

'Bleep.' By a Shelley Manne group from the mid seventies. Manne was - a different drummer, playing on many straight-ahead sessions, but with an experimental bent as well - he drummed behind Ornette early on and on some Jimmy Giuffre sides where the saxist/clarinettist was casting off into different waters... Here - a Monkish theme then Conte Candoli solos – much space as the piano comps sporadically, laying out most of the time. Manne on his own – a crisp solo, sans much tub-thumping – he always seemed to hold a lot back in reserve. Piano from Wofford – spartan left hand over rippling right, broken up with a couple of Monkish phrases to sustain the mood – becoming more two-handed towards the end. Alto – Strozier: fragmentary, almost jagged phrasing continuing the Monkish feel, accents closely followed by the piano. Flowing melodic bass solo from Monty Budwig. Underrated sounds from the West Coast...

Applause and a slow, stomping piano intro from the rarely-sited Brit emigrĂ©, Victor Feldman, before the overlapping horns play tag across the 12 bar structure. 'Breakdown Blues,' from a live date by Art Pepper - and Zoot Sims, who was his early hero before he fell under the spell of John Coltrane. Zoot was 'have horn – will travel,' content to roam the world in later years and pick up local backing bands as he went. Much loved at Ronnies in London, for example.... One wonders if it was the vaudeville family he was born into as much as the musician's life that made Zoot Sims as peripatic as he was? Cool name as well: John Haley Sims is o.k. but - Zoot... says it all... (This old Downbeat article gives the origins of the nickname... and more... ). One of the 'Four Brothers,' out of Lester, a consummate swinging improviser. He solos first. Pepper next, a more emotive sound – but Art, after all, carried more emotional baggage. One is struck by his sound – quite a ways from Bird, he always prided himself on his inviduality. The drums prod accurately behind - Billy Higgins in the chair. Piano comes in on a rolling motif. Block chords, octave doubling, a full sound. Ray Brown takes a chorus or two, showing his technique from top to bottom – horn lines transposed. The saxes return to ride it out, supported by orchestral piano from Feldman.

'Georgia on my mind.' A gentle introduction on piano – then the two trombones enter on a slow, lazy Hoagy-ish stroll – theme and comments intimitately entwined. Kai Winding and J.J. Johnson were a very successful if unusual outfit in their day – there have not been many combos fronted by two trombones. Twinkling piano takes it out...

A brisker version: Elmo Hope's quartet, with Frank Foster on tenor. The obscure Hope and the underrated Foster give this a good reading. Tenor solo first – Hope following him all the way - a fulsome piano backing. The drums coming through more strongly to prod him along as the solo progresses. Hope plays an expansive and full melodic line with some chasing double timed phrases. Foster returns briefly then Hope again before ending.

Ray Charles of course recorded a definitive version of 'Georgia.' Let us not be too obvious and play it – just a fragment – which is looped for the main theme of Ludacris and Field Mob's take on 'Georgia.' A clever hip hop take expanding on the basic shell - Ray sampled - which is woven in and out of the track – call and response, anyone? This track is not rated in some circles but, despite its occasional clumsiness, I like the meshing of the old and new...

Not to leave without something from the Genius... here he is playing 'What'd I Say.' I saw Ray Charles several times in the sixties and this was always the climax of the show... wild shit...

Those 'social rhythms' – where jazz and rhythm and blues cross-feed. I was never that enamoured of Steve Coleman's admittedly brave attempts to bring in contemporary strands of pop music into jazz – but here's an energetic blow out from a stellar band under his name:

'Coleman's goal here was to find the common link among all the currents in 20th century creative black music...' (From a review of the album here... scroll down...).

Marvin 'Smitty' Smith makes a brave stab at giving the funk rhythm enough flexibility for jazzers to play over – conjoined to the great Ed Blackwell. 'Pass it on.' A muscular tenor solo from Von Freeman – then Kenny Wheeler (?) - yes indeed – unfazed by the clamour he rips out some high note bravura as if to the manner borne and sounds as if he was enjoying himself... Dave Holland up next – bouncing off a vamp for a brief strum. All in then for a mutual blow before they go back into the theme. Throw in old-school (the venerable) Tommy Flanagan to the mix and what should be a mess works very well... Uplifting...

Improvisation comes in many colours – which is a clumsy but well-intentioned lead in the Terry Riley and 'Rainbow in Curved Air' from 1969. Keyboard skirling like amphetamine bagpipes over an insistent vamp. One of the loci where jazz and improvisation specifically meet minimalism and Eastern musics. Play back to back with any Alice Coltrane... I suspect that this album was more influential than it has been given credit for... tracking the electronic ripples is fascinating...

In the Videodrome...

Zoot plays 'My Old Flame...

Shelly Manne from 1970... Coop in tenor

Brother Ray...

and again in Japan...

Shelley Mann
Mike Wofford (p); Frank Strozier (as); Conte Candoli (t); Monty Budwig (b); Shelly Manne (d)


Art Pepper/Zoot Sims
Art Pepper (as) Zoot Sims (ts) Victor Feldman (p) Ray Brown (b) Billy Higgins (d)
Breakdown Blues


Elmo Hope Quartet
Frank Foster (ts), Elmo Hope (p), John Ore (b), Arthur Taylor (d)
Georgia on my Mind


J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding (tr); Bill Evans (p); Paul Chambers (b); Roy Haynes (d);
Georgia on my mind


Ludacris/Field Mob


Steve Coleman
Steve Coleman (as) Von Freeman (ts) Kenny Wheeler (t) Kevin Eubanks (g) Tommy Flanagan (p) Dave Holland (b) Marvin Smitty Smith, Ed Blackwell (d)
Pass it on


Terry Riley

Rainbow in Curved Air


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