Thursday, December 20, 2007

William Parker... John Coltrane... Frank Wright... Howling Wolf

'The Damned Don't Cry' was a 1950 film noir vehicle for Joan Crawford – with that title, what else? When John Coltrane recorded the 'Africa/Brass' sessions, he included the song of the same name (ok, ok, eponymous). Introduced by drums and then bass spelling out a swaying 12/8 to underpin the ensemble entrance, led by Booker Little, before Coltrane joins them on soprano. The band produce a sonorous mix with echoes of Gil Evans and a hint of hardboiled movie soundtrack, this tune is the most conventional of the sessions – was the arrangement by Cal Massey, rather than Eric Dolphy? – not originally released on the album. The track does appear a bit disjointed in comparison to the rest of material, despite the crack crew on hand, which is maybe why it was left on the shelf initially. It finally settles into a steady four as Coltrane lets fly – skittering fast tenor offering that unique mix of toughness and yearning, pierced with sporadic ensemble interjections. Tyner takes a couple of steady choruses then Coltrane returns on soprano – running all over the distant looming hills of the brass-heavy backup, before the bass signals a return to 12/8 and they all slow down for the theme and out.

Stepping jauntily in with the theme 'Hawaii' from the album 2005 'Sound Unity,' the William Parker quartet. Hamid Drake prominent, firing off sharp fusillades, as the front line of Rob Brown and Lewis Barnes emerge from the theme in a criss-crossing dance, locked in step below by the huge presence of the leader. Collective improvisation to bring a smile to the face and generate some welcome heat on a freezing cold and foggy morning in God's Little Acre – a calypso feel in places to the theme for further warmth – Trinidad goes west? Brown drops out to let Barnes step up, jumped along by Drake who is unremitting throughout. Brown cuts in for a brief fandango before taking his own solo steps. Drake hits a section of off-beats at one point which give an almost trad swing over the four of the bass. Spins off into a dizzying flurried maelstrom when Barnes returns. They drop out to let the leader take over, backed by rolling swing and needle-sharp rimshots from the drummer. The horns tiptoe back in on an almost old-school riff, briefly, Parker doing a bit more then signalling the theme for a front line brief return. Brown is one of my current favourite players, but Barnes acquits himself with authority. Parker sublime and strong, as ever – Drake supple, imperious and on fire throughout.

Frank Wright from 1965. His r and b roots up front here – bleary, smearing sax, that compensates for technical lack (early on his career) with youthful energy:

'Wright had not been playing tenor long when he was asked to make Coltrane’s Ascension date (he had sat in with Trane on several occasions previously), but reportedly he declined it fearing his skills weren’t at the level required by the music. Nevertheless, Wright did make his first session as a leader a few months later, in a trio with bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Tom Price for then-fledgling ESP-Disk...’ (From here...)

...from which this track, 'The Earth,' is taken. Opens on solo tenor, then bass and drums join in, Wright jumps into higher registers and continues to balance squall and squeal with deep throaty honks and blats. Henry Grimes takes a solo, backed by the drummer which shows that they have a bit more idea of what is going down – but Wright has an honest, rough-hewn appeal at this point in his career. A lot of albums/sessions from the beginning of the avant-garde (in the fifties onwards) have a certain air of uncertainty which demonstrates, perhaps, the freshness of the ideas, the sheer novelty of what was occurring, that drop into the unknown. Wright was to develop and further hone his technique and influences (Albert Ayler, in the main) but I like the coltish honesty of this album

The mighty Wolf – delineating the blues: 'Now listen, peoples...' - taking a sly dig at white appropriations, before firmly demonstrating he knows what he is talking about... 'Back Door Man.' Archetypal one chord stomping riff – pure Delta blues – as Chester B unfolds the Willie Dixon song – not his original recording but the one from the 'Dogshit' album he was 'persuaded' to make in 1969 -which I rather like, perversely...

In the Videodrome...

Some Braxton...

Rob Brown
with Parker and Grimes...

Howling Wolf tells you all about the blues...

Hubert Sumlin at Buddy Guy's...

Trane in Belgium...

William Parker
William Parker (b) Rob Brown (as) Lewis Barnes (t) Hamid Drake (d)
Hawaii
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John Coltrane
Freddie Hubbard, Booker Little (tp) Jim Buffington, Donald Carrado, Bob Northern, Robert Swisshelm, Julius Watkins (frh) Charles Greenlee, Julian Priester (euph) Bill Barber (tu) John Coltrane (ss, ts) Eric Dolphy (as, bcl, fl, arr, cond) Pat Patrick (bars) Garvin Bushell (reeds) McCoy Tyner (p, arr) Reggie Workman (b) Elvin Jones (d) Cal Massey (arr) Romulus Franceschini (cond)
The Damned Don't Cry
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Frank Wright
Frank Wright (ts) Henry Grimes (b) Tom Price (d)
The Earth
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Howling Wolf
Back door man
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4 comments:

godoggo said...

Love the Wolf track. Sounds to me like he's got a good rock drummer on it. Anybody famous?

Rod... said...

the discography gives collective personnel for the album as follows:

Howlin' Wolf, v, hca; Gene Barge, sax; Donald Myrick, f; Hubert Sumlin, Pete Cosey, Roland Faulkner, Phil Upchurch, g; Louis Satterfield, b; Morris Jennings, d. Some of these musicians - Jennings included, also played on a similar album, Muddy Waters 'Electric Mud.' Cosey, of course went on to some glory with Miles... Some of the other tracks on the Wolf album have a glorious riot of styles - Wolf called it his dogshit album - but some sources also say that he was referring to the London Sessions with the Brit blues mafia. Maybe he hated both! Must put up some more...

godoggo said...

Oh, yeah, I love Electric Mud.

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