There were so many good and great gigs this year that I have not had time to sit around and count them all up to wrap them into a retrospective. Shucks... Maybe tomorrow... But here are four tracks to consider before I roll out the last seasonal mix.
Chico Hamilton – undersung somewhat overall and probably because of spending time out on the West Coast rather than in the belly of the New York beast where the main publicity action was to be found in jazz. (Although he was commercially very successful for a period in the fifties/early sixties). This is one of his 'chamber jazz' setups playing 'Theme for a starlet.' Introduced by see-sawing strings (Hamilton pioneered the use of cello in jazz) and Eric Dolphy's piping flute. Dennis Budomir's guitar joins them as they hit a slow steady tempo. Short, moody, more about texture than improvisation. A broadening of the palette.
A few years on and a pioneer band from 1964, The New York Art Quartet. The title track of their album, 'Mohawk.' Free jazz had arrived... Although Tchicai was and is a thoughtful player, not given to the scrawk and scream of other saxophonists. Jerky, pulling each other about in a collective performance that is, however, finely balanced overall. Rudd is marvellous, tailgate nouveau, playing off the alto, Workman deft and solid as needed, Graves underneath giving surely-pitched polyrhythmic ballast. A band that listens to each other. A compressed track, four and half minutes but much to consider. Underplayed and perhaps more interesting because of that...
Down the line a ways and Evan Parker, doyen of the European avant garde. A fairly short performance, not one of his marathons. Parker is one of the most consistently brilliant players around – this is 'Banda (O.D.J.B.),' taken from his 1991 album 'Process and reality.' Is there a joke in there, somewhere? Those initials spell 'Original Dixieland Jazz (Jass) Band to me... Or maybe an obscure homage? I wonder what Evan would make of 'Livery Stable Blues'? Anyway... exploring studio multi-tracking for the first time, (I think) he creates a dense space where his soprano weaves across itself, sounding at times like a riffing horn section and/or a tape loop as a line goes in a higher spiral over its cloned selves. A simultaneous evocation of jazz and Steve Reich style systems musics – all improvised freely...
And turning back (maybe): Albert Ayler, from his album 1967 album 'Love Cry,' the title track. One of the last sessions that the recently deceased Donald Ayler played on with his brother, if I remember correctly. (If not the last). A simple declamatory fanfare opens, a yodelling voice briefly echoes it (to return towards the end) then the horns have at it, fairly sedately – Albert is in the usual tenor register, Donald playing simple but strong figures – there is a very good blogpost about him here... Scuttling bass opens it up underneath as Graves rolls his drums out in waves. A distillation of the Ayler methods, quieter than the firestorms he was capable of. Evoking earlier jazz idioms of collective improvisation, simple folk forms, the trumpet especially giving a marching band feel almost, with a vocal quality coming from the blues (and gospel, as Godoggo pointed out a while back in one of his comments, although the saxophone vibrato is not quite as broad-banded here as it usually was). I love Albert...
Mississippi Fred McDowell in 1965... crisp stinging bottleneck, a rolling rhythm and Mississippi Fred's high plaintive voice combine in a crystalline, pure reading of 'Going down to the river.' Country blues brought back from obscurity for a new audience by one of the masters... timeless.
In the Videodrome...
Chico at Newport...
Mississippi Fred McDowell...
Charles Mingus takes the 'A' Train...
Evan and Ned...
Chico Hamilton (d) Eric Dolphy (fl) Dennis Budimir (g) Nathan Gershman (c) Wyatt Ruther or Ralph Pena (b)
Theme for a starlet
New York Art Quartet
John Tchicai (as) Roswell Rudd (tb) Reggie Workman (b) Milford Graves (d)
Evan Parker (ss)
Albert Ayler (ts) Donald Ayler (t) Alan Silva (b) Milford Graves (d)
Mississippi Fred McDowell
Going down to the river