Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Harold Land... Sonny Rollins... Stan Getz...

Three tenors...

I first heard Harold Land on an e.p. I bought when I was a kid, playing with the Curtis Counce group. Another link to that session is the drummer, Frank Butler, who underpins 'The Fox,' Land's famous album from 1959 from which I have extracted the track 'Little Chris.' Land, and to a certain extent, Butler, had long and distinguished careers – Elmo Hope and Dupree Bolton did not. Bolton, a fiery talent with the usual unfortunate bad habits that plagued bop, is (unfortunately) equally famous for being a member of the San Quentin prison band along with Frank Morgan, when Art Pepper dropped in for a brief sojourn in 1961. (There is a fascinating interview with Morgan here...). Hope was another veteran from early bop who never got any later breaks – an interesting overview here...). Land was an interesting composer - this is a stop-start theme, made up of six bars over a bouncing bass pedal followed by twelve in a straight swinging four, the interestingly lopsided pattern recurring throughout. Land takes the first solo – there is a tough edge to his playing that I find appealing – although seen as a West-Coaster, he was born in Houston – did some of that hardball Texas tenor get assimilated early on? (Although – the West Coast was where a lot of Texans ended up – think Ornette, from Fort Worth, for example. Too simplistic to label always as 'Cool School'). Butler is an underrated talent – busy here all the way – prodding and poking. Hope is interestingly elliptical – more towards the Monk side of the spectrum here than Bud, say, for someone with such strong bebop roots. Butler has his place in the sun before they go back to the theme and out... This is where a large area of modern jazz had been staked out by the late fifties... an interesting consolidation...

Sonny Rollins – playing an uppish blues, 'Solid,' from his 'Moving Out' album. He solos first, spinning his craggy full-throated lines with authority. Kenny Dorham follows, a typically bright performance, some nice floating games with time here, classy bop flurries scattered among the blues phrases from the common motival gene pool. Hope again, more linear here than on the above track, a sparkling demonstration of bop piano crosswired into the blues. The front line exchange some energetic fours before coming back for the theme. The whole tied up together by Percy Heath and Art Blakey. Recorded in 1954, on the cusp of the symbolic watershed of the fifties - the death of Bird in 1955. An good example of Rollins before he really started to stretch out... another interesting consolidation...

A session under Stan Getz's name, a live recording from the Shrine auditorium in 1954. The tenor man is partnered up with Bob Brookmeyer and here they are playing 'Flamingo.' One of the defining strands of so-called 'West-Coast' jazz was the fascination with counterpoint. Perhaps as an early melt-down of a perceived cluttered harmony which paved the way to greater freedoms? (Although Bill Evans somewhere says that one should consider harmony as counterpoint which implies a more elastic freedom available within the canon). I have always figured Ornette's break from orthodox bop was influenced by the earlier experiments without pianos such as Gerry Mulligan's recordings with Chet Baker, for example – or Jimmy Giuffre's various groups. You could run the line back from counterpoint to classical training, I suppose - and end in Bach and there were fascinating if not always successful attempts throughout this period to graft 'serious' music onto jazz. Here - slap bang in the tradition: relaxed - but intense - swinging music. With a piano - but Williams stays out the way of the front line who dance around each other in a light-footed weaving, seat of the pants improvising - as Getz admits at the end in his remarks to the audience.

Harold Land
Harold Land (ts) Dupree Bolton (t) Elmo Hope (p) Herbie Lewis (b) Frank Butler (d)
Little Chris


Sonny Rollins
Kenny Dorham (tp) Sonny Rollins (ts) Elmo Hope (p) Percy Heath (b) Art Blakey (d)


Stan Getz/Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer (vtb) Stan Getz (ts) John Williams (p) Bill Anthony (b) Art Mardigan (d)


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