Friday, March 21, 2008
Art Tatum... James Emery... Oliver Nelson... Amina Claudine Myers... Bessie Smith
Art Tatum steps elegantly into 'A Foggy Day,' followed by the sour-sweet alto of Bennie Carter. From the album 'Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume One,' a classic track. Carter is magisterial, imperious even, one of the great saxophonists in jazz, yet one perhaps overshadowed by Bird and Johnny Hodges on alto, perhaps because of his long time spent in the studios as an in-demand arranger. The evidence for his real standing speaks out in the theme statements and solos... Good overview of his astoundingly long career here...
Tatum still causes critical splits, with some not able to enter his sound-world of overwhelming, swirling, rapidfire piano. Me – I love him. You can hear his stride influences clearly here, overlaid with diamond-sharp runs and harmonic disruptions, Carter, however, well able to stand up to the gale force. Louis Bellson keeps it ticking over. I've often seen Tatum as the father, not just of the bop piano players, but of free jazz firebrand Cecil Taylor. Max Roach makes the same point, sort of:
'“Now you have people... who preserve the tradition. And then there are people who push forward, who perpetuate the continuum by trying out things. Cecil Taylor is more like Art Tatum than a guy who plays like Tatum. It may not always come off, but that’s what creativity’s about. .' (From here... )
Swooning, vertiginous bass introduces James Emery's '4 Quartets Fugitive Items,' taken from the 2003 release, 'Transformations.' Throughout, the bass keeps a strong jazz reference going underneath the more 'third-stream' writing and European nuances. Emery has a unique touch on guitar, spidering his finger-buster angular runs throughout in sudden dashes of cool brilliance. An interesting composition which allows space for Tony Coe, Franz Kogelman and the bass player, Peter Herbert to demonstrate their ease of performance with this complex music. I originally came across James Emery with the String Trio of New York way back – with Billy Bang and John Lindberg – playing similar chamber jazz – with a similar steely heart.
Oliver Nelson and company play 'The Meeting,' from the album 'Screamin' the Blues.' A soul-jazz feel to the swaying gospel roll and 'amen' cadences. Richard Williams chokes out some fierce trumpet. Then - Eric Dolphy, who especially on these earlier sides always sounds in a different galaxy compared to everyone else. Wyands takes a nifty solo without slipping too much into Timmons-y cliches y'all. Nelson next, that wide-open vibrato to the fore. I always find his playing intriguing in that he doesn't play complex lines particularly (and how to compete with the Immortal Eric?) yet he threads them through on interesting logic and tonal bending. Somewhat more interesting 1961 take on more rootsy jazz than many others - lifted by Dolphy's wild angularities...
Amina Claudine Myers channelling Bessie Smith. McBee opens here on fierce bass evoking earlier vocalised guitar styles ending on a repeating note that strums into a guitar-like backing as Myers enters vocally with the first chorus of 'Jailhouse Blues. Third chorus she brings in sharp piano chords and the drums kick in. She lets loose with a hard-hitting stomp of a solo that references the tradition – octave trills out of Hines, classic blues figures. Going out with the return of the bass – the star really of the track, although Amina does justice to a difficult task, given that her voice, good as it is, does not carry the massive emotional weight of the Mighty Bessie...
... who can be heard here doing the original. Power and soul...
Art Tatum (p) Benny Carter as) Louis Bellson (d)
A Foggy Day
James Emery (g) Tony Coe (ts, cl) Franz Koglmann (fl-h) Peter Herbert (b)
4 Quartets Fugitive Items
Oliver Nelson (ts) Richard Williams (t) Eric Dolphy (as) Richard Wyands (p) George Duvivier (b) Roy Haynes (d)
Amina Claudine Myers
Amina Claudine Myers (v, p) Cecil McBee (b) Jimmy Lovelace (d)