Sunday, April 29, 2007

Damo Suzuki at the Quad Studios, Leicester... Saturday 28th April, 2007... part one...

Just a quick post to up a couple of photos and say how much I enjoyed the gig last night... Damo Suzuki was brilliant, playing with both Plexus (myself and Murray Ward) - who hoist the black flag of noise/cosmic wahoo and to which his vocal responses were pretty amazing - and in his main set with Black Carrot, our own David Teledu added to the ensemble on guitar. Dragon or Emperor blasted the night off to the levels it stayed at throughout (well, I can't talk for us, but Carrot plus Teledu were on fire). David also promoted the night at Quad Studios - whose owner Bob and his staff extended to all of us their courtesy and professionalism. Great venue - great sound. And great audience. More later when I've recovered... and must buy a new camera... I don't think that dropping it a while back did it much good...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Derek Bailey/Cyro Baptista... Andrew Hill... Booker Ervin...

Derek Bailey time... plus percussionist: 'Cyro Baptista has recorded with a wide range of artists including john zorn, wynton marsalis, herbie hancock, sting, paul simon, cassandra wilson,and trey anastasio.' (From here... scroll down...). One could juxtapose the list to get some interesting results... Derek B with Paul Simon, for example... or the appalling bore, Sting... Or Derek with Wynton... that would have been fun... An interesting fantasy... On 'Tonto,' the inimitable guitarist comes up against the bubblingly infectious rhythms and sounds of Baptista and displays how his spiky, asymmetric playing can bounce off or complement - and also drag his collaborator into areas he might not have travelled to, by the dynamic gravity of his conception. And the reverse – reacting to Baptista causes Bailey to lay back more than usual. Commencing on high pitches and rustles – tremelo guitar figures, spartan for Bailey. Lots of space here – guitar falls back to allow Baptista's small percussion through, returning on strange string noises – plectrum scrapings up and down the strings? Baptista sets up a melodic line of sorts on one of his instruments – some kind of bowed gadget? Round which Bailey weaves his sparse phrases, string noises and occasional ratcheting fast-plectrummed spasms. A very good demonstration that Bailey was more flexible than may often have appeared...

Another Andrew Hill track...

One last word on the passing of Andrew Hill... Be.Jazz has some fascinating links on his tribute to the late pianist – check out the Ethan Iverson essay and the live trio concert video. Just noticed this blog piece about the album, 'Passing Ships,' from which I have extracted the track 'Cascades.' (There is an mp3 download of 'Plantation Bag' here as well...). Recorded in 1969 but not released till 2003... The nonet deployed on this session gives an insight into Hill's writing for a larger than combo size band. The drums usher in the ensemble – a very full sound from top to bottom, anchored by tuba. One thinks of the 'Birth of the Cool' sessions – although this is different, spikier territory, the sonorities are reminiscent of Miles' band. A charging solo from Farrell (whose playing on his several wind instruments is stamped all over this album a heroic role). Hill follows, sparse phrases given plenty of space, spurred on by occasional eruptions from the front line – brassy fanfares... a reminder – and contrast – to Monk, who was an influence Hill assimilated. The similarity in oblique phrasing and unpredictable use of space... the contrast: Monk always seems to have sprung totally from within the Afro-American music tradition, whereas Hill has an edge of European classical/art music in his melodic and harmonic thinking that spices his own cultural heritage. A matter of small nuance, perhaps... these things intermingle and mix more than the purists realise – on both sides... Trumpet follows, brash and beautiful, with the young Lenny White putting the spurs to it before the band return – trumpet and sax weaving to round it off...

Booker Ervin from 1962. 'Speak Low,' track four on the album 'That's It!' A booting tenorfest... alpha male full-throated swagger. Ervin takes the first solo, running the tune ragged. Parlan next, fleet and bluesy before the Book returns to finish it off. Ira Gitler said of him: "Booker Ervin's tenor is like a giant steamroller of a brush, painting huge patterns on a canvas as wide and high as the sky." (Quoted in here...). Tough – and tender...

In the Videodrome...

Eric Dolphy doing his solo bass clarinet thing...

Jaki Byard...

Mingus in Norway...part 1

... and part 2

Derek Bailey (g) Cyro Baptista (perc)


Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill (p) Julian Priester (tr) Dizzy Reece, Woody Shaw (t) trumpet Joe Farrell (bcl, af, (eh) (ss) (ts) Bob Northern (fh) Howard Johnson (tb, bcl) Ron Carter (b) Lenny White (d)


Booker Ervin
Booker Ervin (ts) Horace Parlan (p) George Tucker (b) Al Harewood (d)
Speak Low


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Andrew Hill 1931-2007...

A late posting on a sad subject – but I have been laid up with a chest infection that sideswiped me at the end of last week... just about coming round now...

As jazz gets older – whatever arbitrary birthdate or more realistically timeframe where the music coalesced and evolved into an approximation of what we could understand as 'jazz' one considers, approaching a hundred years, whichever way you slice it – mortality takes over and ever-increasingly adds to the ranks of the departed. So to the sad news that Andrew Hill died last week after battling with cancer for some time. Condolences to his family and friends – and a small requiem. Here are two tracks from his 1964 album – fittingly called 'Andrew!!!' and the exclamation marks are deserved in spades. Added value to this album is the presence of John Gilmore... First: 'Le Serpent Qui Danse.' A dancing, serpentine melody indeed, with perhaps a nod at the more clenched convolutions of Monk. Hill ripples out some single note lines over spartan left hand, becoming more two handed towards the end in textural contrast – bop twisted sideways as he never quite goes where you think he is heading for. Hutchinson follows, closely shadowed by the piano, his lines seeming a fitting extension of the leader's vision. Chambers and Davis superb throughout – the drummer letting go an almighty joyful crash towards the end of the vibes solo. Gilmore – worried phrases then sudden dives and swoops into a longer pattern. His tone similar to Coltrane – on whom he had some influence:

'Gilmore...[was] a gifted saxophonist who gave John Coltrane lessons and was an important but still undervalued influence on the generation of saxophonists who emerged in the 1960s avant-garde...' (From here...).

The drummer next, commencing on a shimmer or cymbals. Hill returns, developing quickly into more chordal strategies, thickening his line. Return of ensemble for the theme and a short piano coda.

My second selection is 'Symmetry.' Hill takes the first solo – expansive and twisting into unusual places again. Knotty stuff... Chambers up next as Davis and spartan piano back his brief but sparkling solo. Hutchinson moves in for his take on expanded bebop then Gilmore – brusque choppy phrases. Noting that comparison with Coltrane again, Gilmore is less 'sheets of sound' than 'shards of sound,' allowing more space...

John Fordham wrote (here...):
'But being many-layered, complex, stretched between American jazz, Caribbean and sometimes 20th-century classical music, Hill's music has never won him the fame of radical contemporaries like Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, or the Art Ensemble of Chicago.'

A sad truth... yet Hill had received some belated recognition in recent years... although I suspect that 'time, that with that strange excuse' (to appropriate a deleted section of Auden's poem and twist the meaning somewhat) will do much more than pardon his obscurity and see him elevated to a higher position in the public annals – where he undoubtedly belongs. John Fordham's obituary is here...

Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill (p) Bobby Hutcherson (vib) John Gilmore (ts) Richard Davis (b) Joe Chambers (d)
Le serpent qui danse



Thursday, April 19, 2007

Ornette Coleman receives the Pulitzer... congratulations!

As I mentioned yesterday, the Pulitzer Prize for music has been awarded to Ornette Coleman for his album 'Sound Grammar.' I wonder if the 77 year old reflected on Duke's sardonic statement, when he missed out on a similar prize: 'Fate is being kind to me. Fate doesn't want me to be famous too young.' But let us not carp... I saw the band who recorded this 2005 live album at Ludwigshaven in London the same year and they were brilliant – looking forward to seeing O.C. In July...

So: a small celebration from this blog for a visionary musician... A couple of posts back, I noted that Straight No Chaser has a piece on this and included a track from 'Sound Grammar,' so I'll avoid duplication and go for something earlier. Here's Ornette on his European jaunt in 1965, recorded live at the Tivoli, playing 'Clergyman's Dream.' One of my favourite line-ups - Ornette with David Izenzon and Charles Moffett. Opening theme by Ornette, tracked by the bass and then the drums – the solo alto just flows out from here. The bass is very prominent and the way Ornette bounces off Izenzon's lines describes a joyful arc of freedom. Moffett picks up steam although the recording does him no favours. For me this is one of those tracks that demonstrate very clearly one great vision of what 'free' improvisation means.

Izenzon up next – backed by Moffett's cymbals he takes a fleet pizzicato solo that ranges across his instrument from high to low – Moffett sets up a counter-rhythm at one point on what sounds like a beer glass before thumping his toms to signal his take-over from the bass. A brilliant and imaginative drummer. Free – and swinging, starting off with hihat ticking the off-beat and a rattle of tambourine as a historic starting point almost before the the rapidly developing complications of his complex stick-work take over.

Ornette comes back – some interesting triplet over two behind him that gives a swaying sensation before the bass returns to a more solid four walk. One feels as if the space evoked here is limitless, free air blowing in all directions... Izenzon does his suspended rhythm again... Sudden rolls on the toms as three go separately -and together. Coming back to the slow/fast theme...
The track ends in a glorious rapid swirl of notes and drums... Cue applause...

During this track, as Ornette alternately entangles himself in knotty swirls of melody and then jumps free in a manner that follows a conversational logic – his alto exultant, pleading, querulous – joyful – yet a deep and meaningful conversation – no idle chatter – he demonstrates one of the great innovations in instrumental technique that 'jazz' as we know it developed from the start. The 'vocalised' instrumental tone that every musician has to find – ways of bending the conventional straight timbres to the individual's will and imagination. Compare, say, Lee Konitz with Charlie Parker – the hot and the cool (although Konitz in later years has developed a harder edge). Two radically different voices... Jazz musicians have to find their way through to that space which their technique, emotions and imagination come together to create – influence can never be escaped, yet the imperative is for a degree of freedom that transcends one's teachers – in any of the genres, old and new, retro or forward-faring or just holding the line – way beyond the academy's training. The degree to which this has changed among classically trained musicians is probably the extent to which jazz has impacted on their territories... An overtly romantic take, maybe... but this music makes me feel overtly romantic – guts and brain engaged simultaneously...

And I've just discovered that I upped this track last year and also wrote at some length about it here... bugger! Still – always worth hearing and I'm on the clock today so...

Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman (as) David Izenzon (b) Charles Moffett (d)
Clergyman's Dream



Just checked and noticed that my bandwidth has been exceeded on YouSendIt - all sorted now... the last set of downloads will be ok for the next six days... as ever, if anyone requests a re-post, I'll see what I can do... Just acquired a batch of new cds and albums - the usual mixture including some nice stuff from Bill Dixon and Archie Shepp form way back, along with the unfairly obscure Clifford Thornton... and some Paul Bley... have to get busy on the mp3 conversions as soon as possible...
And... I really must get round to deleting some of the older Savefile tracks so will post up what is still remaining when I've checked through them...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Anthony Braxton... Jimmy Reed - straight and chopped... Lightnin' Hopkins... DJ Screw/2Pac... Ben Webster/Coleman Hawkins...Cecil Taylor...

'This mammoth document of the final year of the famous Braxton Quartet shows exactly why that group finally split: they had reached a creative apex as a group that -- arguably -- could not be furthered.' (Thom Jurek from a very good introduction to these recordings here...).

Track one from the Willisau Quartet recordings – studio and live – 1991.
Commencing in a rather stately way, the cool tones of Braxton's clarinet giving his music even more of a European edge than usual, perhaps... I like this quote on the BBC web site: 'the missing link between Charlie Parker and John Cage.' Mark Dresser takes a solo and shows his mastery - the gamut of scrapes and scratches and bouncing the bow off the strings to rapid-fire arco sawing, ending on swooning figures as piano and clarinet return. Hemingway rejoins the trio, the drum/tom tom figures reminding you of the music's jazz origins - although the implied rhythms of the participants are another grounding that takes the classical ethos and bends it to Braxton's imperious compositional and improvisational will. The title refers, I gather, to three Braxton compositions... this compounding and blending of the notated sources in performance on the fly adds another layer of complexity to his music... what the thirdstream should have sounded like but rarely did in the balance of technique,genres - and emotion...

Back to the blues... Jimmy Reed was very popular in the UK during the r and b boom years. Yes, his music is a bit formulaic – but there was always something appealing about that shuffle beat of his. Not so heavy on the emotional freight, perhaps – without the shattering power of the Wolf or Muddy Waters, for example – maybe that was one reason for his popularity – social blues for dancing and drinking. And I'm going to New York sometime soon...

Some more Lightnin'... 'West Texas Blues.' Mr Hopkins on his own from the 1960's, stinging guitar tracking the voice, the amplification taking the country blues to somewhere different – able to hold its own in a crowded bar or club better than an acoustic performance yet retaining some degree of intimacy as played solo - when he uses a drummer it gives a different, more extroverted feel... it can be easy to forget that this music was played in more rowdy atmospheres and venues than would seem evident from its arrival on the festival and concert stages when it was taken up by a white audience...

Today's hard blues in Houston – chopped and screwed via the late lamented DJ Screw. Here is his version of 2Pac's 'So Many Tears.' The slowed down track gives a weird combination of menace, poignancy and despair: 'Lord, I suffered through the years, and shed so many tears..
Lord, I lost so many peers, and shed so many tears .' A ghostly harmonica(?) wafts in and out – ghost of older bluesmen... Unable to source this as it's from an old mixtape...

One plays one's games: I wondered what would happen if I took the Jimmy Reed track and slowed it down... get the syrup out, boys and girls...

More from the Hawk and Ben: By the time this session was recorded they were venerable tenor statesmen – the soloing is as much about texture, nuance and rhythm than the usual tenor speed lines. A thoughtful piano intro then Webster takes the tune: 'It never entered my mind.' It suddenly came to me listening to the slurs and bends he employs that there is some Johnny Hodges here, translated to the tenor – well, they sat in the same section for some time... although that after-note vibrato swoosh is classic Webster. Hawk comes in and follows the mood, his tone with that slightly harder edge, staying down and dark for much of his solo. Distilled essence of jazz saxophone... Webster returns for more swoosh... the band frame the two front-liners admirably – Peterson especially restrained and sympathetic.

Cecil Taylor, from the album 'Into the Hot' that went out under Gil Evan's name and showcased Johnny Carisi and the pianist, a side each. This is 'Mixed,' introduced by the horns, starting on a repeated 4 note melody – some nice muted trumpet from Curson. A piercing alto entry from Lyons – the breath of the Bird very much in evidence here. Taylor takes a section – almost rhapsodic as Lyons joins him. Then it starts to cook... churning ensemble and fiery piano taking the foreground, supported by Murray (a little drowned in the mix but his accents and rhythmic concepts come through despite the murk). A strange mutated riff sets up which echoes back into the history as well as pointing forward – the evidence for continuity was always there... The harmonic textures evoke the conservatory – the fire and passion and timbres channel the blues... I must put up some of the Carisi as a contrast – interesting music but conceptually a long way from Taylor's vision...

Great news that Ornette Coleman has received a Pulitzer - I'll put up a tribute asap - so glad I bought my tickets for his London concert (and Cecil - and Braxton - July looking good...). Straight No Chaser has a good piece on this and also a track from 'Sound Grammar.'

Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton (as, cl, cbcl, fl, sss), Marilyn Crispell (p), Marc Dresser (b),
Gerry Hemingway (d, mba)
Composition 160(+5) (+40J)


Jimmy Reed
Going to New York


Lightnin' Hopkins
West Texas Blues


DJ Screw/2Pac
So many tears

Jimmy Reed
Going to New York/Slow

Coleman Hawkins/Ben Webster
Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster (ts) Oscar Peterson (p) Herb Ellis (g) Ray Brown (b) Alvin Stoller (d)
You'd be so nice to come home to


Cecil Taylor
(Cecil Taylor (p) Jimmy Lyons (as) Archie Shepp (ts) Ted Curson (t) Roswell Rudd (tr) Henry Grimes (b) Sunny Murray (d)


Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I was intending to post the usual odd mixture of mp3's today but, on reflection, have decided that the invariably light-hearted tone I aim for alongside the serious love of the musics - which are mainly from America - jazz, blues, improvised, whatever - would not be appropriate, given the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech and also while the Memorial Service is still being broadcast over the BBC 24 hour news. My condolences to all who have been affected by this terrible incident - sometimes the only appropriate response is silence...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Vat and Fiddle, Sunday 15th April 2007...

To Nottingham and the Vat and Fiddle for the monthly afternoon gig. A beautiful sunny day - so most of the potential audience were outside! Enough drifted in to make it interesting... and I cranked the P.A. up a notch to reach the sunbathers... Mr Marmion was practising his new raspy voice after his encounter with a small camera being thrust down his throat last week at the hospital - brought a new dimension of gravel and grit to 'Delia Gone.' The boys were on their usual form - Tom and Gren having just finished cutting an album, a few new tunes added to the repertoire. What is always interesting is to track the rapid movements in technique and stagecraft as they progress into becoming one of the best acts on the acoustic scene over here... Some old friends in the audience - from junior to senior...

Friday, April 13, 2007

The fate of the Tonic...

I didn't make it to the Tonic when I was in the U.S. a while back, although I intended to. Health issues dictated a less ambitious regime - (although we made it to the Stone Club). But sad news comes out of New York with regard to the future of the Tonic - which I was intending to visit on my next trip this summer. I reprint below the flyer being sent out and urge locals and anyone else able to help to join in the struggle... I wish everyone involved success...

Musicians and Friends:
It is time to Claim what is our Right!

Saturday April 14th
FROM 11 a.m. until...

107 Norfolk Street
(between Delancey and Rivington)

We Must Demand:
An adequate, affordable space, centrally located in the LES!
Tonic is being handed over to the realtors.
We are making an appeal to the City, to either give us this space or one comparable in size for the use of avantjazz/new music/indie community.
We can not lose such an Important Home!



STOP the loss of important venues, one by one forced to close by rent increases at an alarming rate.
STOP the destruction of the LES as a center of diverse & varied & unique culture.
Tonic is scheduled to close on Friday, April 13th, 2007.

The following day, we will gather to fight the eviction of this crucial venue, the diminishment of our livelihoods, and the destruction of our culture by peacefully resisting. Please join us.

For the last nine years Tonic has been at the center of NYC experimental music. When the tsunami of rent increases and mal-development engulfing the LES forces its closure, NYC will have lost the last avant-jazz/indie/new music club in Manhattan with a capacity over 90. A vibrant community of musicians and fans worked for years to maintain Tonic -- raising over 100,000 dollars through benefit concerts and donations to pay off debt, fund repairs, buy a sound system, and keep the club open in devastating times such as following 9/11/01.

We’re taking action now to dramatize the market failure of which Tonic’s closing is a symptom, and to ask that the city save this home for us or provide a minimum 200 capacity, centrally located venue for experimental jazz, indie, and new music.

We want for ourselves and the communities around us the right to stay around long enough to enjoy the culture we’ve created, not harassment and a bum’s rush into eviction the minute real estate decides we’ve made the neighborhood ‘safe’ and ‘cultured’ enough for them to cash in.

This is where we tell the landlords, developers, and the city: Enough. Genucht. Basta ya!

Coming on the heels of the closing of CBGB's, Sin-e, Fez, The Continental, and numerous other varied downtown venues, the closing of Tonic represents the shutting down of NYC's most important live music experimental jazz, indie, and new music scene.

This wave of live music space closings constitutes a market failure. The downsized or geographically marginal venues arising in the wake of the established club closings are not generating enough to maintain the economic viability of this scene. If there is not immediate and sufficient PUBLIC INTERVENTION, either in the form of limiting rents, or supplying alternate space and funding - or both - New York City will lose an essential part of its heritage, culture, and economy.

“My band plays some of the biggest festivals in Europe...Meanwhile there’s only one club I can play in New York and it’s about to close.”
Steven Bernstein, Trumpet player and leader of Sex Mob and the Millennial Territory Orchestra
(NY Times)

According to Patricia Nicholson Parker, organizer of the Vision Festival:
“We have come together to say we deserve a space and in essence, we have already paid for our space. Musicians contribute to the economy of this city every day with world class performances. In the case of Tonic, many musicians came together and invested in the space. Through benefits and organizing they raised significant sums of money (100+ grand) for the venue, Tonic. The city needs to acknowledge this. It is good for the city and good for the artists and their audiences that the city make available a musician-friendly community club/space which holds up to 200 audience members. It is important that it not be in the outer boroughs but be centrally located in the LES where this serious alternative music has been birthed and where it can be easily accessed by audiences.”

Paul Bley... Ornette Coleman... Coleman Hawkins/Ben Webster... Juke Boy Bonner... Lord Buckley

The Paul Bley Trio from 1965 playing 'Crossroads,' an Ornette Coleman tune. Bley is an adventurer whose career has spanned playing with Charlie Parker to intersecting with the avant garde in the fifties – with Ornette – and the sixties. And beyond. Free playing but based on a solid sense of history. There is a cool intelligence on display here – working with the freedoms Ornette built into his music. The emphasis is on melody – mainly right hand linearity on display here from the pianist. Altshul discreet (although the mix is not great so this may not be so deliberate), subtly shifting the patterns as Swallow takes a spiky solo.In his sixties trio work, one could posit him as similar to Bill Evans but overall taking the forms much further out. I hear echoes of Tristano as well...

Here's Ornette with Dewey Redman from 1968... 'The Garden of Souls.' An oddity because of the bass and drums of John Coltrane's band – Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. The drummer more sympathetic/empathetic to this music, perhaps, than the bassist, who had a chequered relationship with the leader and his music since he replaced Scott La Faro. See John Litweiler's 'Ornette Coleman - A Harmolodic Life, pages 102-3, 128). A stretched-out dirge-like melody. Ornette emerges first over an easy swing from the drummer who then proceeds to play some interesting counter-rhythms before doubling the tempo. Ornette's music always works off this slow/fast dynamic – this track will change tempos throughout from slow walk to fast canter and back. Redman enters with bizarre growling granularities – a strangled bending droning. A technique of singing through the mouthpiece to produce overtones and chords that he perfected. Here, he sounds further out than Coleman, issuing scratchy almost bad-tempered timbres:

'In my world, that's the first thing I reach for is the sound. Technique is Ok, but if you got the technique and I got a good sound, I'll beat you every time. You can play a thousand notes and I can play one note and wipe you out. That's what I reach for is a sound.' (From here...).

Here are two of the fountain-head tenors getting down on 'Blues for Yolande.' Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, the track ushered in by Oscar Peterson's rolling piano. Hawk takes off first, in dirty, slurring gut-bucket mode. Webster has a lighter tone relatively. He comes in for his solo in a more reflective mood, slowly building in intensity and approaching the Hawkins growl. Peterson takes a solo, bass heavy and sparse with his technique held on a tighter rein than usual – in keeping with the mood of the track. This is all about 'sound' not pyrotechnics... riffing tenors edging into r and b territory. Given the macho history of tenor battles, what is interesting on this track - and album - is the way Hawkins and Webster complement - and mirror - each other. Ornette Coleman wrote in the liner notes for his album 'Ornette on Tenor' the following:

'The tenor is a rhythm instrument, and the best statements Negroes have made, of what their soul is, have been on the tenor saxophone... the tenor's got that honk, you can get to peope with it...' (On page 98, Litweiler, ibid).

Ornette Coleman and Dewey Redman were both from Texas and the blues tradition is strong in their music... Here's some more Juke Boy Bonner, the Poet of Houston. 'When the deal goes down.' Strong echoes of Lightnin' Hopkins - but Bonner was an original voice...

In affectionate piss-taking mode: the great Lord Buckley, whose material I have not posted for a while... here is his hip-talking burn-up on the story of Jesus: 'The Nazz.' A carpenter kiddie...

Paul Bley
Paul Bley (p) Steve Swallow (b) Barry Altschul (d)


Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman (as) Dewey Redman (ts) Jimmy Garrison (b) Elvin Jones (d)
The Garden of Souls


Coleman Hawkins/Ben Webster
Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster (ts) Oscar Peterson (p) Herb Ellis (g) Ray Brwon (b) Alvin Stoller (d)
Blues for Yolanda


Juke Boy Bonner
Juke Boy Bonner (g, harm) Alvin J. Simon (d)
When the deal goes down


Lord Buckley
The Nazz


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Joe Albany/Warne Marsh...

I have to attend my mother's funeral today so only one track for now: 'Body and Soul,' by Joe Albany and Warne Marsh. Old-school, maybe – but improvising of the highest order. Some mystery to this – according to the sleeve notes there were three players present for this informal session recorded at the home of engineer Ralph Garretson– Marsh, Albany and the bass player, Bob Whitlock, but there is clearly a drummer present... Could be Red Martinson... or Stan Dembowski... Not too sure where I acquired this – possibly from jazz pour tous or a Rab-related site. The things one stumbles across – 'Joe Albany' was a character played by Lloyd Nolan in the 1938 film 'Hunted Men.' In real life, a somewhat tragic character - there is a wonderful interview here with his daughter Amy, who wrote a 'warts-and-all' book about her life with him. Marsh was a brilliant tenor player who never really got the recognition he should have. Listen to their actions and interactions as they take the old standard for a ride.

And: tot siens, mother...

Joe Albany/Warne Marsh
Joe Albany (p) Warne Marsh (ts) Bob Whitlock (b) Unknown (d)
Body and Soul


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Henry Threadgill... Cecil Taylor... Juke Boy Bonner...

After the sturm und drang of the wild and wooly sixties, things died down considerably on the avant garde jazz front – due a complex combination of cultural and economic factors. Yet much work was being done below the radar...
This Henry Threadgill track, 'USO Dance,' is taken from the indespensible 'Wildflowers: The New York Jazz Loft Sessions' – 'sessions...[documenting]... a period in the music's history that, until now, has been severely neglected.' (Taken from Scott Hreha's review here...).
Opening on a rapid-fire bass over spattering cymbals and ripping drums – a sudden pause and Threadgill plunges straight in, introducing a motif and tossing it about – fragments, short phrases the building blocks...
The USO dance must have required much fleetness of foot... I assume this refers to the United Services Overseas – Threadgill was involved with playing and writing for various bands during his term of military service. The band are, of course, the very wonderful Air), Threadgill in company with Fred Hopkins and Steve McCall – decamped from their original home in Chicago to New York when this was recorded live at Sam Rivers' loft in 1976. A perfect balance achieved between the three (worthy, as Bird might have said) constituents...

The drums have it... a stomping opening with snapping rim shots then Cecil lashes out some solo piano – hacking out two handed dissonances before the drums and bass pick up the tempo and Archie Shepp joins in. This is 'Air – take 28,' in a fast but steady time – Neidlinger's bass walking as of olden days. Shepp was allegedly never too comfortable on this session but by the time they got to this take number... he seems more settled. He drops out and Cecil takes over and lifts the track into a different dimension – mainly right hand work here, ranging through the treble. With the steady bass underneath as of Bebop of yore, maybe there isn't so much need for left hand – although it creeps in as he progresses through his solo – minimal prodding rather than sweeping ambidexterity. Taylor and the drummer trade fours... one of those fascinating tracks hovering on the borderline of the music... Charles is superb but Taylor really lets rip here – listen to the way they toss rhythmic figures backward and forward and compare his approach with the drummer... Eight minutes forty four seconds that helped to change the world...

Weldon 'Juke Boy' Bonner was a Texas bluesman who recorded in the fifties and sixties and died prematurely from cirrhosis at the age of 46. A blues life... Not so well known, maybe, as his illustrious forbear, Lightning Hopkins, Bonner has hard, sad stories to tell in an interesting and very appealing manner. 'Stay off Lyons Avenue,' is a fast shuffle also reminiscent of Jimmy Reed. Accomplished harp and strumming electric guitar – his take on the demarcations of bar lines reminds of Lightning's oft-repeated dictum in a studio once: 'Lightnin' change [chord] when Lightnin' wants to.' Which sums up the link between the freedoms of the old blues and the new musics... His songs are raw translations of his life and times in Houston, another link in the chain that leads to hip-hop and rap – compare to present-day Houston music, the violence and random nature of life in the underclass still sadly resonate – 'You go there green, that's the last time you'll be seen. You know it is..'

'If you had to choose a poet laureate of the late '60s / early '70s blues scene you would be hard pressed to find someone more qualified than Juke Boy Bonner. Bonner's songs speak beautifully and forcefully of the struggle of African Americans. While many blues song-writers focus attention on themselves and their place in the world, Bonner's songs display a social consciousness that stretched far beyond himself.' (from here... scroll down...).

In the Videodrome...

Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette play here...

DeJohnette again with Miles in 1970...

...Henry Threadgill talks and plays

Henry Threadgill
Henry Threadgill(as) Fred Hopkins (b) Steve McCall (d)
USO Dance


Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor (p) Archie Shepp (ts) Buell Neidlinger (b) Dennis Charles (d)
Air take 28


Juke Boy Bonner (g, harm) Alvin J. Simon
Stay off Lyons Avenue


Thursday, April 05, 2007

60 today... celebrate with Andrew Hill...

Well - it's my sixtieth birthday and given all my health issues over the last few years, maybe a surprise to myself that I made it this far... a bigger post to come over Easter... but here's a track from a recent acquisition - Andrew Hill playing 'Eris' from his 1965 album 'Pax.' Weirdly kept in the can by Blue Note for years, bits and pieces surfacing eventually albeit briefly in the seventies , the whole session was only released complete last year. Front line: Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson on blistering form - plus the leader's acerbic piano over the always wonderful Davis and Chambers's driving drums. Touched by the avant garde but keeping a toe hold on the old verities - a unique balancing act... this is a wild track... Henderson sends out a tumbling, roiling solo with Hill hacking out shards of piano behind - then Hubbard steps up and plays off the edge of himself... the leader interrogates his own material in his usual probing manner, laced with some stomping two handed figures - there is a wonderful urgency and drive to this album - a classic...
but sleep looms, mes braves... and a big kiss to my beloved daughter Amelia who has been a rock over the the last couple of difficult weeks...

Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill (p) Freddie Hubbard (t) Joe Henderson (ts) Richard Davis (b) Joe Chambers (d)


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Fred Hersch... Martial Solal... Art Blakey... Charles Mingus/Langston Hughes... Ornette Coleman... John Coltrane... Cecil Taylor

A piano player to start with... Fred Hersch, with Charlie Haden and Joey Baron, playing the Jimmy Rowles tune 'The Peacocks.' From 1986. A slow dance...Hersch offers a meditative yet probing approach to the piece and uses the trio format to good spatial advantage, with Haden strong and deep and Baron making strategic use of his cymbals. Haden takes a soulful solo. The piano ends it on high ripples...

Hersch has made a name as a solo pianist, a difficult area to inhabit. Here's another solitaire – the mercurial Martial Solal, playing 'Que reste-t-il de nos amours.' Originally a French pop song, with music by Léo Chauliac and Charles Trent and lyrics by Charles Trenet, better known in the English-speaking world as 'I wish you love.' (Remember Shearing and Nat Cole?). A jaunty beginning as he teases at the melody. With Solal, expect the unexpected – odd twists and wrong-footing notes and harmonisations... the ending puckishly rolls down into the bass where a sudden snatch of recapitulated melody pokes up...

Keeping the piano link – Horace Silver was with the original Jazz Messengers for about a year. This is his tune 'Nica's Dream,' played by Art and the boys... by Blakey standards, a fairly relaxed track, with a latin tinge. Hank Mobley and Donald Byrd solo fairly effortlessly. Silver belts out a trill to start his solo and plays with much bounce and attack, alternating between single note line and slammed out chords. An intriguing look at the band in its formative year. This session was recorded on April 5th, 1956, so some synchronicity in its selection...

A weird one from 1958... Langston Hughes in a poetry and jazz collaboration with Leonard Feather and Charles Mingus. The album consisted of two long tracks... here's an extract from the second side with Mingus and company... Kenny Dennis on drums in place of Mingus's old traps compatriate Danny Richmond. Hadi on tenor rather than his usual alto. 'There's liable to be confusion when a dream is deferred...' Hughes's readings are a strange mixture of the academic – almost professorial in his enunciation – tinged with 'camp' and mixed with the low-down in their verbal collisions . Bit like 'jazz,' really. Take note, daddio... 'Dig and be dug in return.' Opening on a dirge-like sax and bowed bass before Hughes comes in... Knepper takes a fluidly brilliant but sadly brief solo about a minute towards the end... the track ending on an upwards glissando from Mingus – who is the superb spine throughout... a memory of the old jazz and poetry days... Must dig out my Kerouac stuff... This was ripped at 64 but keeps the atmosphere... a large chunk of the text is here for reference...

Vachel Lindsey
(who claimed he had 'discovered' Langston Hughes) once said, disparagingly, I assume: '"Jazz is is the dust of the dirty dance....The Saxophone is the most diseased instrument in all modern music." (Found here: , scroll down: footnote 1. This article also states that Lindsey was the inspiration for Hughes use of jazz in his poetry). Silly sod... Despite the distinctive use of rhythm in his work:

'Whirl ye the deadly voo-doo rattle,
Harry the uplands,
Steal all the cattle,
Rattle-rattle, rattle-rattle,
Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, Boom.'

he denied being influenced by jazz:

'his exuberant recitation[s]... led some critics to compare it to jazz poetry despite his persistent protests. (From here... The quoted lines 21-26 of 'The Congo' are taken from this link).

He was also seen by some as racist, although that could (perhaps) be seen in the context of his times. Enough... He was a fine poet and the beginning of 'Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan' has a certain swing to it:

'In a nation of one hundred fine, mob-hearted, lynching, relenting, repenting, millions,
There are plenty of sweeping, swinging, stinging, gorgeous things to shout about,
And knock your old blue devils out.' (From here...).

Go, Vachel, as Jack Kerouac might have interjected...

Where were we? 'Diseased saxophones'... I love that phrase... Here's some alto, diseased or otherwise, take your pick... Ornette from his album 'Virgin Beauty,' recorded in 1988, the title track. A slow, stately melody, sour-sweet, with odd synthdrum handclaps in the background. The Prime Time band tiptoe around the leader here at first... becoming a little more harmolodically emboldened. Strange rising synth lines and squiggles, presumably from Denardo... An odd album this, without the bite of his electric bands – but I rather like this track...

More 'diseased' saxophone – because I can never get enough of John Coltrane - playing 'But not for me' from the epochal 'My Favourite Things' album. Coltrane takes it steady enough until he really starts to let rip – Tyner takes a stomping solo – starting with an echo of Red Garland from Miles's Quintet days – then taking it much further. Music that is definitive and also in transition – if that makes sense. Coltrane and the group render a superb version of the standard song within the parameters of what modern jazz was at the time - but also one spots the tensions and yearning for more free forms. I love that keening high note Coltrane goes up to – and the overloaded rapid flurries which are simply dazzling...

More 'dust of the dirty dance.' To end with a piano player... one is tempted to say the piano player. I found out yesterday that Cecil Taylor is playing in London this July with a quartet that will also feature Anthony Braxton... to which my reaction was: 'Wow!' Saw Cecil at the controversial-ish gig a couple of years ago when Braxton fractionally edged in to take the honours with his Ghost Trance band - an amazing night. Playing together - a dream ticket. With Ornette performing the next night, I think I had better get my tickets and hotel booked soon... This is Cecil T playing the first section from '3Phasis' which he recorded in 1978. The leader introducing the track on piano before the band join
him , the ensemble given a sharp and piquant timbre with Ramsay Ameen's violin added to Jimmy Lyons and Raphe Malik's alto and trumpet. The piano in torrential mode soon enough... although there are quieter sections where Taylor shades his playing and pauses are used to allow some air in between the wildness. Knotty and intriguing - as ever...

In the Videodrome...

Following on from the last post... here's Herbie...

and David Murray live at the Village Vanguard in 1986...

Fred Hersch
Fred Hersch (p) Charlie Haden (b) Joey Baron (d)


Martial Solal (p)
Que reste-t-il de nos amours


Langston Hughes/Charles Mingus
Langston Hughes (poetry) Shafi Hadi (ts) Jimmy Knepper (tr) Horace Parlan (p) Charles Mingus (b) Kenny Dennis (d)
Weary Blues (my extract)


Ornette Coleman/Prime Time
Virgin Beauty


John Coltrane
John Coltrane (ts) McCoy Tyner (p) Steve Davis (b) Elvin Jones (d)
But not for me


Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor (p) Jimmy Lyons (as) Raphe Malik (t) Ramsay Ameen (v) Sirone (b) Ronald Shannon Jackson (d)
3 Phasis part one