Saturday, October 06, 2007

Johnny Griffin... John Coltrane/Don Cherry... Grachan Moncur III... David Sylvian/Derek Bailey... Frank Sinatra... Jelly Roll Morton... Keiji Haino

Little chat - all music...

Johnny Griffin has always been a favourite of mine, for the powerful speedy brilliance of his playing, imagination moving at full throttle alongside formidable technique. He recorded the album 'Change of Pace' in 1961 with an unusual line-up – two basses, drums and french horn – an echo of John Coltrane in that rhythm section, whom he replaced in the Thelonious Monk Quartet a couple of years previously – and had played with on some of those wild hardbopping Prestige blowing sessions. The double strings give a totally different feel to the usual small combo backdrop of the time - the lack of piano makes this track seem quite free while still rooted in the harmonically orthodox. Zeitgeist? Nice mixture of arco and pizzicato bass...

Here is Coltrane with Don Cherry – the Coleman band without Ornette - playing the Monk tune 'Bemsha Swing,' taken at a sprightly bounce here. Cherry solos over bass and drums and demonstrates the new freedoms acquired – but he would be used to playing with Haden and Blackwell.. An odd album overall – 'The Avant Garde' title is a bit of a hostage to fortune - but on this track Coltrane stretches out and seems to enjoy the rolling acres available.

The splendidly-named Grachan Moncur III, from a session recorded in 1969, 'New Africa,' the track 'When.' A track dominated by a haunting, simple vamp from the piano that sounds throughout – and Andrew Cyrille's drumming which dominates and drives the band onwards and upwards. A reticent, almost hesitant solo from Moncur, which is followed by a fascinatingly pithy jigsaw puzzle offered by Mitchell. Shepp is muscular and raw. Red meat. Burrell keeps the vamp going with his left hand while he serves up some almost Basie-ish minimal treble figures. Some more Moncur - wry figures as the saxes sporadically comment. But the drummer's track, I would say. A fascinating (yet sad) interview with the trombonist here...

David Sylvian recorded his album 'Blemish'in 2003, after the break-up of his marriage. Uniquely, he added the late great Derek Bailey for three tracks – here's 'How little we need to be happy.' Soft, pained vocals against a backdrop of Bailey's spiky shards, like some cruel reality breaking in to shred happiness – sadly grasping after consolation.

Continuing in this vein – Frank Sinatra from 1959, the album of saloon songs 'No one cares.' 'I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you.' Tragic stuff, delivered superbly, the ambiance of a guy in a raincoat and hat that only Frank could get away with, sat in a bar somewhere over a bourbon... the despair of someone who will not even get the chance to love and lose...

We have got this far down the track on the doom quotient – here is Jelly Roll Morton's late flowering band from 1938, with the New Orleans mordant comment on mortality, 'Didn't he ramble,' an elegy, perhaps, for the style of music he pioneered but which had been supplanted by the late thirties by swing and a small band style that was about to explode into bop within a short few years.

Fast-forward - Keiji Haino with Greg Cohen and Joey Baron. The Japanese guitarist skitters out some fast strummed chordal figures, sounding like a more conventional Derek Bailey at times. Bass and drums dance round him joyously...

Johnny Griffin
Julius Watkins (frh) Johnny Griffin (ts) Larry Gales, Bill Lee (b) Ben Riley (d)
As we all know
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John Coltrane/Don Cherry
John Coltrane (ts) Don Cherry (t) Charlie Haden (b) Ed Blackwell (d)
Bemsha Swing
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Grachan Moncur III
Grachan Moncur III (tr) Roscoe Mitchell (fl, as) Archie Shepp (ts) Dave Burrell (p) Alan Silva (b)Andrew Cyrille (d)
When
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Jelly Roll Morton
Ferdinand 'Jelly Roll' Morton (p) Sidney De Paris (t) Claude Jones (tr) Albert Nicholas (cl) Sidney Bechet (ss) Happy Cauldwell (ts) Lawrence Lucie (g) Wellman Braud (b) Zutty Singleton (d)
Oh didn't he ramble
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David Sylvian/Derek Bailey

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Frank Sinatra
I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you
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Keiji Haino
Keiji Haino (g) Greg Cohen (b) Joey Baron (d)
Rolling on the time and tide spreading the colour red
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5 comments:

eminders said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rod... said...

I don't know who eminders are and I don't usually delete comments but I don't think that a link to some body called mississippi florists has much to do with the matter in hand. Sod off, in fact...

Mr Blister said...

Excellent posts as usual...but particularly the Sylvian / Bailey track. I'm not sure how it works, but it does. Absolute magic!

Rod... said...

Thanks for comment - I know what you mean - there is this sad soft vocal counterpointed by old DB's splintered, acerbic guitar - but the dynamic between them makes the song. One I go back to a lot, anyway...

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