Thursday, June 07, 2007

Thelonious Monk/Gigi Gryce... Sonny Rollins... Joe Morris... Blind Lemon Jefferson... Bob Wills...

'Brake's Sake' is a less well-known Thelonious Monk composition, taken from an album under Gigi Gryce's name (who played alto saxophone on this date). Recorded in 1955 – the golden age of Monk, perhaps, when everything was still fresh. Gryce states the theme shadowed rhythmically by Monk. An appealing player, the altoist was to become better known for his composing skills. The higher range of his saxophone gives an airier feel than usual (Monk's bands were usually fronted by tenor players). Monk takes a sparkling solo, expanding the theme in his usual asymmetric manner – Blakey and Heath are steady as you go – with the drummer letting go a few figures towards the end to mark his presence...

Sonny Rollins: 'Someday I'll find you,' taken from his 1958 album, 'The Freedom Suite.' Recorded at a time when cultural and political freedoms were to become a dominating issue in American life. Yet a corollary musical freedom breathes throughout – one of the roads out of the bop box was taken by many in the fifties with the decision to drop the piano – I've talked about before about Gerry Mulligan, Jimmy Giuffre – and the most famous piano-less quartet of Ornette Coleman's – here Rollins follows suit. (No pun intended). So: different but related takes on freedom - read more here about the liner notes - Rollins original, concerned with explicit oppression and Orrin Keepnews more distanced take that moves the focus to themusical search for freedom, which was the one used by the record company. In itself, a reflection on the times... This version of an old Noel Coward song opens on a bouncing three four, with much pattering of clenched hihat from Roach, before settling into a sturdy four four. Anchored by the bass, Rollins and Roach take it out, the drummer especially busy, giving the saxophonist plenty of rhythmic stimulation. Sax and drums exchange tight one bar to and fro before the theme restatement. 'Someday I'll find you, moonlight behind you, true to the dream I am dreaming.'

More from Joe Morris's solo acoustic guitar album, 'Singularity.' This is 'Flight,' another exercise in stripped-down abrasive purity. Probing and grittily dissonant... Morris displays his mastery with his ranging runs up and down the neck of his instrument – at one point a brief section of fast-strummed chords gives a distant echo of Derek Bailey...

If you wanted portability and easy moving, a guitar was your instrument – capable of accompaniment for vocals and instrumental work – or the two combined. The early country blues singers evolved a style that still cuts and also demonstrates various enduring elements of african-american music/culture. There is a loose freedom to the blues before it became more codified, (although in the public domain, one could argue it was already set in form quite early on, via W.C. Handy et al), a spirit that I think returns, in a more explicit way, with the avant-garde in the sixties. Here's Blind Lemon Jefferson with the old staple 'Easy Rider Blues.' The form allows for considerable space where the guitar echoes and answers the voice in an ongoing dialogue... Those who regard(ed) this music as 'primitive' and count the bars to see when the canonic twelve are overridden are maybe missing a point - 'form is never more than an expression of content, ' after all, if you follow Creeley - via Olson...(Quote from here... I also like the revamp from Denis Levertov: 'Form is never more than a revelation of content.' (Quoted from here... scroll down...

For no other reason than it's on my hard drive, but there is a relationship – Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys like Blind Lemon, came from the Lone Star State. Music for dancing and fun – there's a joyful exuberance to Wills' music. And I have a kind of theory that the manner in which his bands stacked styles – country, dixieland/jazz, folk etc. - into a newly minted whole, while expressing the vitality and cross-fertilisations of Texas musics – in a way fore-runs Ornette Coleman's Prime Time bands... something in the soil? Or the air... Wills had a gig early on at the Crystal Ballroom in Fort Worth, if I remember correctly, toured all over and would also have been heard on radio throughout the south west... Here you have hoe-down fiddles, jazzy piano and electric guitar, countrified vocals and the inimitable Wills' high-piched yiha interjections: 'Aw, Brother Al Strickland now.' Stay all night, stay a little longer...

In the Videodrome...

Bob Wills and 'Ida Red'

in 1980...

and in 1974...

...and some immaculate T Bone Walker...

Gigi Gryce/Thelonious Monk
Gig Gryce (as) Thelonious Monk (p) Percy Heath (b) Art Blakey (d)
Brake's Sake


Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins (ts) Oscar Pettiford (b) Max Roach (d)
Someday I'll find you


Joe Morris (g)


Blind Lemon Jefferson (g, v)
Easy Rider Blues


Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
Stay all night, stay a little longer


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