Something to ease into the day with as the monsoon returns to God's Little Acre – Ike Quebec from 1961, a stone classic session. This is 'Blue and Sentimental.' Led in by Grant Green's chording, a big-hearted tenor saxophone slow-dance through the old Basie tune. Quebec was not a big name as such, but a very appealing and thoughtful player with buckets of soul and a strong melodic conception. Green solos over minimal accompaniment from Chambers and Philly Joe, a guitarist with a strong root in the blues... Towards the end, Jones lets off a couple of sharp retorts in just the right places to spur it along...
Chico Hamilton from 1959. Not a fiery muse, rather: subtle shadings and leanings towards the third-stream with his deployment of the cello. And yet another fifties West-Coast band without a piano... 'Lost in the night' is dreamily romantic, Eric Dolphy, sounding less his usual spiky self, takes a looping long-lined solo that gives me an echo of Ornette. They always call this stuff 'chamber jazz.' A short piece with more to it than surface consideration might suggest...
George Russell from 1961 – with Eric Dolphy again.
'George Russell's significance within jazz is rather tough to evaluate. For many years he was almost entirely marginalised by the critical and commercial establishment.' (From 'The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD,' Richard Cook and Brian Morton, Fifth Edition, p1293).
Musicians would have been aware of his 'significance'... his theoretical teachings were a contributing factor to the spread of interest in modal improvising and extracting scales from chords in a new and potentially radical fashion. This track is 'Honesty,' going in and out of tempo, stopping and starting, a jaunty tune. Dolphy starts the solos – smearingly bluesy as all get out before he takes on the stop-start structure, spinning off lines with his usual consummate fluency, roughing out of the smooth by eventually progressing into some of those trademark wrenching intervallic jumps and briefly overlapped by Don Ellis who comes in on muted trumpet before reverting to open horn. Again, a solo interestingly rooted in the tradition, that flows out across Russell's underlay and beyond. Like much of Russell's music, Ellis sounds almost straight here – but not quite, there is always some diagonal movement, some little twist out of the ordinary. Dave Baker steps up for some accurate and thoughtful tromboning duties, another underrated player. (He also wrote this track, I think). Much of the accompaniment throughout is Russell alone, somewhat back in the mix, as the rhythm section drop out between spells of straight-up four. Swallow takes the bass for a sprint across light brushes and faint piano. Ending up on an ensemble over a rocking backbeat. A strange piece, that alternates between a twelve bar blues – and suddenly pulling the rug out to dump you in the open... not a bad metaphor for Russell's music...
I've not put up any Albert Ayler for a week or two – so here's 'Prophet' from the live album 'Spirits Rejoice.' Two bass players, brother Donald and Charles Tyler on alto join him in the front-line, Sunny Murray on the drums. Whooping and hollering in from the start, driving squalls of exhilarating brilliance. Some dense bass interplay to thicken the brew followed by a collective blow-out. Not a great recording technically – but the fire and spirit of the occasion burn through. Still.
As an ongoing heretic – I've always liked Albert Ayler's later music where he is grappling with a more 'social' element – the impact of white electric rock and a step back into rhythm and blues – in the spirit of the times. Reigning back from the balls-out free playing (well, partly) here he is with a storming blues, 'Drudgery,' from the album 'Music is the Healing Force of the Universe.' Ayler buzz saws his way back to the timbral links between the past and the future before Henry Vestine from Canned Heat plays a sure-fingered blistering solo. Then they both take it out before Bobby Few, who gives of his two-fisted all throughout, stomps in for a couple of choruses. This must have been fun to make. One for the purists... ho ho...
Out-in, in-out – I love these paradoxes of movement. Here is Jackie Mclean from the 1963 album, 'One Step Beyond.' The title gives the distance travelled – out but not too far out, McLean coming to grips with the playing of Ornette that had such a profound affect on him. 'Saturday and Sunday.' Lined up with him – Grachan Moncur, Bobby Hutcherson, Eddie Khan – and a wild, wild Tony Williams who is all over this track. Yet another tune with different rhythmic sections and lots of space in between them. Then it jumps into an uppish tempo as McLean takes his alto for a ride into new places. One can hear the influence of Coleman in the linearity and space he has opened here to explore – helped by the fluid, open drumming of Williams who belts it along in imperious fashion. Moncur enters, an appealingly gruff player, going down to some quizzical deep notes, a very vocal timbre to his trombone. Hutcherson enters cooly, spells out some rolling struck figures, dying off quietly to let the young turk Williams take over - amazing to think that this was his first recording session at the age of seventeen, before he went with Miles to greater fame. Some people just have it born in them, perhaps. Whatever - he steals the show, to end on an almost ironic cymbal spit before the theme returns.
Ike Quebec (ts) Grant Green (g) Paul Chambers (b) Philly Joe Jones (d)
Blue and Sentimental
Chico Hamilton (d); Eric Dolphy (reeds); Dennis Budimir (g); Nathan Gershman (c); Wyatt Ruther (b)
Lost in the night
George Russell (p) Eric Dolphy (as) Don Ellis (t) Dave Baker (tr) Steve Swallow (b) Joe Hunt (d)
Albert Ayler (ts) Charles Tyler (as) Donald Ayler (t) Gary Peacock, Henry Grimes (b) Sunny Murray (d
Albert Ayler (ts) Bobby Few (p) Henry Vestine (g) Stafford James (b) Bill Folwell (el-b) Muhammad Ali (d)
Grachan Moncur III (tb) Jackie McLean (as) Bobby Hutcherson (vib) Eddie Khan (b) Tony Williams (d)
Saturday and Sunday