Thelonious Monk was out on the coast in 1960 and recorded a rather happy live session at San Francisco's Blackhawk club with an expanded quartet – Charlie Rouse, John Ore and Billy Higgins were joined by locals Joe Gordon and Harold Land on trumpet and tenor saxophone respectively. This is 'Worry Later,' also known as 'San Francisco Holiday,' which maybe refers to this sojourn. This album never seems to score as high as I think it should, for some reason. There's a casual, relaxed feeling to the date – the audience are a bit chatty in places but that adds to the ambiance. Billy Higgins takes it in with drum figures that echo the melody before the ensemble play the head. Rouse first – with no great advantage of knowledge over the strangers in the front line, actually, as this tune was relatively new. Gordon follows, negotiating the changes well. Harold Land comes in strong and keeps up. Monk plays his usual games of displacing the rhythm with unexpected accents, a couple of times (amusingly) seeming to stop some of his more familiar runs abruptly which leaves you hanging, the theme never far away... He appears to be on cheerful form...
Do the boogaloo – a choppy, funky track from Big John Patton and company, 'The Turnaround,' from a 1964 soul jazz classic: 'Let 'Em Roll.' Some nice Grant Green to commence before Big John comes in, firing off a batch of bluesy runs that go to some interesting melodic areas, Green backing up with sharp chording. Green has a raucous edge to his guitar than was usual in jazz at that time, a more r and b sound. Another ensemble timbral oddity perhaps – the inclusion of vibes master Bobby Hutcherson – who does not solo on this track. Rocking stuff.
There is a calm elegance to Art Farmer's music that maybe disguises the intrinsic fire... Here is the title track from his album 'Farmer's Market,' a fast jumpy bop blues. The first solo is by Wynton Kelly and comes out of the traps at speed, complete with bop-cheeky quote from 'Buttons and Bows.' Farmer next, a fluent display. Hank Mobley follows him, breathily in the pocket. Art's twin brother Addison takes his bass for a swift sure-footes run. All held together by the young Elvin Jones in fairly conventional but swinging style. Freshly consolidated bop, from 1956, a year on the cusp of change...
The Booker Little track 'The Confined Few' can be found under his own name as part of the 'New York Sessions,' but was originally out with Teddy Charles as leader. The trumpeter was only twenty three when he died – an amazing fact when you consider the poise and control here. Charles is luckily still with us but has been off the critical map for a while – unfortunately, as he was a prominent member of the generation who set about re-modelling jazz in the fifties. A slow beginning that drops off into a steady tempo. Addison Farmer on bass again. The rather wonderful Booker Ervin is up first, booting tenor nicely tracked by Shaughnessy's drums. Mal Waldron takes a thoughtful solo, followed by fluent and melodic bass floating on Charles' vibes. Then Booker Little – fire and brio. Sharp and bright...
Two contrasting alto players – Ken McIntyre and the great Eric Dolphy. From their album 'Looking Ahead,' this is 'Curtsy.' Dolphy seemed fond of this frontline format - he recorded a couple of similar albums with Oliver Nelson, who led those sessions. The two altos come steaming in on the theme then McIntyre solos first. Some interesting curlicues – but Dolphy follows and ups the track a gear. His tone is so powerful, although his lines here are not pushing across the harmonies as far as usual. Mcintyre retaliates, rising to the game then Dolphy again, this time expanding outwards – as he continues to do in the ensuing fours, bringing to bear more of his unique intervallic conception. McIntyre, it has to be said, is not left behind. Some sure-handed piano from Walter Bishop before the theme close. A jaunty, cheerful track. Their turn to curtsy - my turn to bow ...
Coming relatively up-to-date... 1996. A duo performance by Matthew Shipp and Roscoe Mitchell. Starting off with dabbed at notes and short phrases, pointillism in action, the piece slowly expands into a swirl of dense lines, the sour-sweet horn of Mitchell swathed in the deep, cavernous sonorities of Shipp's piano. Which reminds me at times of our own Keith Tippett and his pounding storms of overtones. This is the last track from the album '2Z,' 2-Z-11 - also named 'The Physics of Angels,' which combines neatly the scientific and the spiritual. Or something. Wonderful, expansive music...
Back a few years... opening on a rough scrawl of overloaded guitar before settling into a bouncing blues. The Wolf, singing 'Mr Highway Man,' interspersing vocals with gutty harmonica. A wild slice of prime rhythm and blues from the Golden Age, thumped along by booming drums and ending on a juke-boxy scratch and scrape before the needle lifts...
In the Videodrome...
Art Farmer, with Lee Konitz and Oliver Nelson...
More Konitz – with Lennie Tristano...
Booker Little with Max Roach...
...some recent Anthony Braxton...
Thelonious Monk (p) Joe Gordon (t) Charlie Rouse, Harold Land (ts) John Ore (b) Billy Higgins (d)
Big John Patton
John Patton (org) Bobby Hutcherson (vi) Grant Green (g) Otis "Candy" Finch (d)
Art Farmer (t) Hank Mobley (ts) Wynton Kelly (p) Addison Farmer (b) Elvin Jones
Teddy Charles (vibes); Mal Waldron (p); Booker Little (tpt); Booker Ervin (ts); Addison Farmer (b); Eddie Shaughnessy (dr)
The Confined Few
Eric Dolphy/Ken McIntyre
Eric Dolphy, Ken McIntyre (as) Walter Bishop (p), Sam Jones (b) and Art Taylor (d)
Matthew Shipp/Roscoe Mitchell
Matthew Shipp (p) Roscoe Mitchell (as)
2-Z-11 The Physics of Angels
Mr Highway Man