Saturday, August 11, 2007

Charles Mingus... Tal Farlow... Cecil Taylor... Sonny Rollins

Mingus in 1960. A stunning quartet sans piano, bravura stuff all round:

'This ensemble featured the same instruments as Coleman's quartet, and is often regarded as Mingus rising to the challenging new standard established by Coleman.' (From here...)

'What love' begins as slow meditation before the impeccable Ted Curson takes a long solo, starting mournful – a flamenco/spanish edge to it - becoming more jaunty with wonderful spiralling runs, over changing rhythms. Mingus next up, fast runs and pauses, a single note poked at several times – this is like eavesdropping on someone's private thoughts. Dolphy sidles in with low sinister bass clarinet before engaging in conversation with the leader. Richmond's cymbals join them then drums as the rhythm sort of staggers out – start stop start stop. One of the defining characteristics of 'jazz' was/is the manner in which instrumental tone was 'vocalised.' Here, you can hear them talking to each other, Dolphy especially hilarious as he imitates the rise and fall of a quizzical speech cadence. Answered by Mingus. They sound like a bickering couple. Funny and thought-provokingly brilliant – Mingus always painted on a broad canvas.

Linked to Mingus by his time with the Red Norvo trio, just before he branched out on his own, Talmadge Holt Farlow, a genius of modern jazz guitar, was something of an enigma. At the height of his fame, he dropped out of the profession and returned to his original career as sign-painter. Although he surfaced in later years (and sadly died of cancer in 1998), that return to small-town life has probably taken him off the radar for many. Listen to his blistering runs and odd phrases on 'Just one of those things.' It wasn't, believe me... Classic small combo modern jazz - he's well-supported by Red Mitchell and Stan Levy. Claude Williamson takes a matchingly fleet solo.

Cecil Taylor again. I like him... From his first album 'Jazz Advance,' and boy, it certainly was, 'Song,' featuring Steve Lacy on soprano saxophone. Now, this was recorded in 1956, the bass is solid, the drums unobtrusive, not stretched into the new pulses and time continua to come. Yet Taylor takes off in places to hint at what was not far round the corner. His piano fairly romps and stomps in places, blatting out clusters and dense runs. Lacy is cool, holding his own ground, seemingly unfazed by the surrounding furore.To have stepped out of Dixieland into this music was an interesting manoevre, to say the least. There is a wonderful freshness to this track, still retaining the virginal energies of its conception as new territories were joyfully explored. Hearing old masters still playing with youthful fire has been a special privilege the last couple of years - yet how much more thrilling must it have been for those who caught it the first time round...

Finally... Sonny Rollins. 'We kiss in a shadow,' taken from the ever-fascinating album 'East Broadway Rundown' that he recorded with Coltrane's rhythm section. (Freddy Hubbard was also on the session but only for one track). Contrast and compare time... Rollins, despite his own undeniable brilliance, lived so much in the shadow of Coltrane, despite out-living him and becoming a celebrated elder stateman of the tenor – perhaps we should consider these musicians more in the spirit of 'both/and' rather than 'either/or.' Partisanship is fine – and I am a stone archetypal fan in the sense of fanatic for a variety of musics. But it can get out of hand and lead to neglect of important contributors... Certainly in jazz... I'm thinking about figures like Jimmy Giuffre perhaps, or Lennie Tristano – or the sombre reality of being a genius unrecognised and unrewarded as in the case of the trombonist/free improvisor Paul Rutherford, who died earlier this week. Some bitter irony in the coverage of his death – I just noticed this extensive obit in the Guardian today by Richard Williams – as compared to the obscurity of much of his recent life, which poses many questions about how such cases of economic and artistic neglect can be dealt with – if at all... Ending on a sombre note – but it's a sad tale...

Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus (b) Eric Dolphy (b-cl) Ted Curson (t) Danny Richmond (d)
What Love


Tal Farlow
Tal Farlow (g) Claude Williamson (p) Red Mitchell (b) Stan Levy (d)
Just one of those things


Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor (p) Steve Lacy (ss) Buell Neidlinger (b) Dennis Charles (d)


Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins (ts) Jimmy Garrison (b) Elvin Jones (d)
We kiss in a shadow



Anonymous said...

hi, would it be possible for you to post the Tal Farlow album back up? The link has expired.

Rod... said...

...I will post the track back up - but I don't up full albums as a general rule. However - if you want to send me a mail to I'll send the album privately.