Monday, February 25, 2008

Joe Morris/Rob Brown... John Coltrane... Lennie Tristano...

Some of my favourite contemporary musicians – the Joe Morris/Rob Brown quartet, enclosing William Parker and Jackson Krall, playing 'Pivotal,' from their 1995 album, 'Illuminate.' Spirals of interlocking melody as the bass runs deep and the drums spatter: Krall has one of those especially dustbin-liddish cymbals that splash a grimy metallic shimmer across the soundspace. Not surprising to learn that he's a bespoke drum-maker and sound-sculptor (see here...). Morris emerges eventually, repeating a cranky fragment over and over until his usual linearity surfaces, albeit a craggy line - there is a scouring, almost Calvinistic purity to his playing, shorn of effects but not slipping back into the more cosy timbres of classic jazz guitar – informed by rock although transcending it. Parker comes up next, a twisting bounce that ebbs away to silence briefly – then Krall steps in, rolls across the kit in short phrases that drop off to a quick silence before extending his rhythm into a longer breath. Back for more collective weaving and sparring that ebbs away over sharp accents from Krall - eventually to
silence .

I truly dig Joe Morris:

'I'm not interested in being part of any doctrinaire, dogmatic scene led by anyone. I mean, I vote and I obey the law. I have a family and I pay my taxes. I'm not an anarchist because it's too organized around set principles. I prefer to be a kind of old fashioned hipster who doesn't fit in anywhere, quietly pissing off the people who spend their lives pissing off people with their anti-social contrivances. It's all been so predictable for so long. ' (From here...).


John Coltrane's first session as leader. Red Garland holds the piano chair on this session, alternating with Mal Waldron. I put up another track from this date a while back – interesting to contrast Waldron with Garland. Red G has a sparkle and bounce to his touch that renders him instantly recognisable, bubbling single note lines alternating with 'locked-hand' dense chordal passages – which he can overdo at times – I find monotony can set in, the sound become sludgy. Here – he's fine, a marvelous foil to Coltrane, whom, the more I listen to of his earlier stuff, the more I appreciate how far he stretched the music and what an innovator he was. It's all here – the seedbeds of the later fiery flights, although this is relatively brief, a heartfelt, deep performance of 'Violets for your furs,' introduced in late-night style by Garland before Coltrane beds down on the theme. A ballad player supreme – this is world-weary, questioning - and beautiful. Garland takes a solo, parallel chord style throughout, but only a chorus, undersprung by Paul Chambers' deep, supple bass. Coltrane then, to take it out, reshaping the theme with a few sudden flurries. A straight, short reading, but the pleasures here are the sheer finesse of the performance, the unique sound of the Coltrane tenor saxophone...

I suspect that Lennie Tristano would have concurred with the sentiments expressed in the Joe Morris quote above. From sessions he recorded in his studio in the early sixties, this is 'Scene and Variations: Carol/Tania/Bud.' Interesting review from 'Downbeat' here...

Starting off in two-handed fashion – apparently he may have influenced George Shearing's adoption of the locked-hands style, although the English pianist alleges here that he took it straight from Milt Buckner – ah, the minutiae of critical obsession - the first of the three sections is a dense chordal passage – suddenly breaking off for part two into a loping bass line that underpins the more familiar long-vista linearity. One interesting solution to playing solo piano. The third section is a long, flowing single line, mainly in the bass, returning to both hands briefly to thump out some chords. Unsung, old Lennie, unsung... and no one-trick cool jazz pony, let me tell you...

Morris/Brown Quartet
Joe Morris (g) Rob Brown (as) William Parker (b) Jackson Krall (d)


John Coltrane
John Coltrane (ts) Red Garland (p) Paul Chambers (b) Albert "Tootie" Heath (d)
Violets for your furs


Lennie Tristano
Lennie Tristano (p)
Scene and variations: Carol/Tania/Bud


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