Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ray Charles... Peter Brotzmann/William Parker/Hamid Drake... Art Farmer... Toshinori Kondo... 'Big John' Patton...

Opening the cabinet of curios again – this is a Ray Charles date, one that is usually sidelined in favour of the better-known sessions that produced 'Genius plus Soul equals Jazz.' A run through 'Senor Blues', the Horace Silver tune. No vocals – just instrumental. An insistent bass figure builds the spine of the piece before the ensemble comes in. Trumpet solo – Blue Mitchell. Some high stepping and brassy preaching. Clifford Scott, I think, solos next. Juggles some soul blues fragments effectively enough. Then Brother Ray, who could play a mean blues. Spare and funky, just a couple of choruses, slightly battling the background band figures and oddly reminding me of John Lewis... Trying to get the personnel for this date was difficult – robbed it from the BBC Radio 3 in the end... I have fond memories of Ray Charles, one of the musicians I worshipped when I was a kid - saw him live a couple of times with his big band and the Raylettes, just as he was breaking to a larger audience. An interesting combination of raw blues and jazz with country just peeping in at that point.

Brotzmann opens, sounding like an asthmatic vacuum cleaner, hoovering up the notes. 'The heart and the bones,' from a trio date with William Parker and Hamid Drake, taken from their 2001 album 'Never too late but always too early:dedicated to Peter Kowald.' (The late bassist, although recorded before his death as a tribute). The Brotz granularities extend to William Parker's cross-sounding arco solo. Brotz moves to clarinet and takes over, woody and mysterious, distanced, over sporadic colouring percussion and riffing from Parker. Up the register to raise the emotional stakes as Drake starts to hit a few grooves. Return to the lower end, fluid, bubbling. A zig-zagging game of register polarity as he rises again into high squalling spurred by heavy hitting from the drums. Parker exercises his doussin gouni for a section, extending into a quasi-African sound world with hypnotic repetitions. Brotzmann returns on taragato, to cross an eastern timbre with the African as Drake goes berserker, sounding like he's enjoying himself with his rolling thunder. Ebbing nicely away at the end... An interesting journey away from the usual sturm und drang of Brotzmann's fire musics – and especial honours to the drummer.

Toshinori Kondo – solo trumpet, playing a splattering, smearing dazzle of textures fired through his electronic rig to amplify the different shapes of his breath and saliva moving through the instrument. Setting off a looping fragment as background, an insistent whirling that dies to leave slow gurglings that intensify and speed up - to suddenly stop. Kondo also performed with Brotzmann and company in the 'Die like a Dog' band, adding an impressive chunk of technical expertise and colour to that powerhouse unit. Playing the old influences game: if a line extends from Albert Ayler through to that group, Kondo walked in on one leading from Electric Miles (and late Don Ellis?). He'd travelled a long way...

Out of the traps fast – a boppish blues line: 'Farmer's Market.' Kenny Drew, nifty and accurate, takes first solo honours, rolling single notes out in a long arc. A droll quote - 'Buttons and Bows'... de rigeur for the genre... Farmer next, rapid fire elegance – a man who never seemed hurried at whatever tempo. Mobley picks up from his last phrase as he enters. Quite a soft tone compared to many other tenorist of the time, he was capable of much subtlety. Addison Farmer does a fast walk for a chorus or two – straight four. Last chorus and out. The young Elvin Jones keeps it all moving. Bop as she was done in 1956.

'Jakey' by Big John Patton, from 1965. Fast riff theme and Patton goes up first. Funky lines backed by sharp splinters of Granty Green chords. Vibes next, cooling it down a tad, the ice next to the smoky fire, sparked again by Green's guitar comping. Green solos, a keener, bluesy twang to his tone than many other modern jazz guitarists. Patton rides it out to the end. Music to make you feel good... dedicated to my young grandson... Jake...

Ray Charles (pno) Bobby Bryant, Blue Mitchell (tpt) Glen Childress (tbn) J. Lloyd Miller (oboe) Curtis Peagler (as) Andrew Ennis (ts) Clifford Scott, Albert McQueen (ts) Leroy Cooper (bs) James Martin (gtr) Edgar Willis (bs) unknown (d)
Senor Blues


Peter Brötzmann (ts, a-cl, tar) William Parker (b, doussin gouni) Hamid Drake (d)
The heart and the bones


Toshinori Kondo (t, electronics)


Art Farmer
Art Farmer (t) Hank Mobley (ts) Kenny Drew (d) Addison Farmer (b) Elvin Jones (d)
Farmers Market


Big John Patton
John Patton (org) Grant Green (g) Bobby Hutchinson (vib) Otis 'Candy' Finch (d)


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Spring and all mix...

Things have been a trifle hectic since I got back - but here is my seasonal mix, prepared before I left for Berlin - and forgotten about until about half an hour ago...
More mp3s and the usual guff tomorrow - but for now here is the tracklist for:

Spring and All (thanks WCW)

1. Clifford Thornton – Tout le pouvoir au peuple
2. Duke Ellington - Moonbow
3. Georgia Ann Muldrow – New Orleans
4. Jelly Roll Morton – Sidewalk Blues
5. Tom Lehrer – Poisoning pigeons in the park
6. Miles Davis – I could write a book
7. Da Lata - Cores
8. Odd Nosdam – Forever Heavy
9. John Martyn – I'd rather be the devil
10. Burial – Ghost Hardware
11. Whitedog – Crashing
12. Sonny Rollins – Without a song
13. Bessie Smith – After you've gone
14. Velvet Underground+Nico – Sunday Morning
15. Sandy Denny – No more sad refrains
16. Frank Marmion – The hole in the elephant's bottom


Have fun...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Review: Magik Markers... Human Bell... Gnomes of Zurich... at the Rose of England, Nottingham, Thursday 24th April...

Back to the Rose of England in Nottingham for Magik Markers plus two others – Human Bell and the Gnomes of Zurich.

The upstairs room at the Rose is a splendidly beat-up place - I noticed the 'for sale' sign outside and wondered if new owners would keep it intact - a shrine to those much-loved pub function rooms where the bohemian dance goes on forever. The main bonus of, whimsy aside, is the large stage, which tonight also made the changeovers more easy, I would assume...

First up, a duo, guitar and drums, Gnomes of Zurich. Two young guys who made a freeflowing racket, the amplified acoustic guitar giving an interesting timbral edge. Good support to set the tone of the night – that sprawling area where folk, rock and free jazz collide. A punky edge to the Gnomes, over galloping backbeats. The duo format can be a bit exposed (especially sans bass) and they expand it well with some use of looping guitar fragments towards the end...

Human Bell are a trio, two guitars (one doubling on trumpet – I kid you not) and drums. Eschewing bass again, the long, haunting modal/minor guitar figures buttress each other into a fluid textural mix that makes up for that lack. A strong folk move here... and interesting use of repetition as they roll out the melodies over and over with subtle colourings that change the angles ever so slightly. Not to everyone's taste – a few left for the bar during their set. Fascinating to delineate these evocations of the high lonesome – the banjo-like frailing transferred to the double headed electric guitar, for example. Murkier sonorities rose as their set progressed, evoking the ghost of Link Wray in Rumble-reverbing. And then a swerve totally sideways – a trumpet being produced and a dash essayed into Bill Dixon territory, sad looping figures. They needed longer, I think, to progress this stuff through into the space it demands... But: intriguing and thoughtful stuff, none the less...

Magik Markers are now a two-piece after Leah Quimby headed for the tall timber some time back, guitar and drums, in a mirror of the start band, to give the evening a symmetrical arc. Face buried in her fringe, Elisa Ambrogio whacks out splintering guitar over Pete Nolan's whirlwind rhythms, folk blues occasionally channelled by her use of bottleneck – although here seen as a root that has grown and encountered different theologies of noise production rather than retro blues moves. Which could be a metaphor for the evening, thinking about it, especially for the two American bands, who jack into cultural mainlines that still exist, which gives them their vitality, older forms hurled into the maelstroms of contemporary electronics to produce new deliriums of noise/pleasure. One problem: couldn't hear the vocals, they were just a blur of vocal timbre. Which in this music doesn't matter so much, perhaps, in embracing the over-reaching gestalt – but when you go to the albums, you realise you are missing out – especially on the latest material which plays around intriguingly with a sharp twist into song forms dipped in the acids of earlier noiseworks and fuelled by the ongoing energies of an improvisational ethic that embraces the freedoms therein... And: the set was too short again – a problem you had to live with I guess to get three bands on... Hi ho – all in a night's gig – the Markers are a blast whatever the minor carpings... especially the ongoing-developments and consolidations.

Murray and I enjoyed ourselves but thought that maybe things were a little scrappy, not enough time for sets to develop - but at 6 quid a pop for three bands in a good-natured venue – DamnYou as ever come up with the goods...


Back from Berlin, batteries recharged... A review of the Magik Markers gig in Nottingham on Thursday night to follow... and some mp3s... Later...

Sunday, April 20, 2008


There is a certain raffish, informal character to Berlin on first impression... and it is a place I really like and feel at home in. A strange series of movements so far - took over the apartment after meeting up with Murray who was also here this week in one of those odd synchronicities that make life interesting. Didn't have much time as he had a flight to catch - but he looked as if he had enjoyed himself. I caught up with an old friend on Saturday whom I haven't seen for several years. Fast relay of information - he has been around, out in the Ukraine for a while and living here now for a couple of years or more. And also has a charming wife and bouncy three year old boy. We went out for a walk and ended up in Treptower Park.The Soviet War Memorial is solemnly impressive, complete with quotations from the old mass-murderer Uncle Joe... Spooky place, especially on a dark, cold afternoon...

Today I went to the flea market down the road and just wandered around a mass of stalls and bustling crowds, picking up on the vibe... Stood for a while listening to the trio in the photos - cool music, especially a version of 'Fly me to the moon' which sounded like Nico doing a jazz gig - except that the girl singing had a better voice! Beats some ratbag slumped on the pavement singing 'Times they are a changing.'

I was going out to a gig tonight but fell asleep!

Tomorrow off to Kreuzberg...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Arthur Doyle... Roscoe Mitchell... Elmo Hope

A quick hit - I'm off to Berlin in a few hours so on the clock - will try to post from there...

Put 'Arthur Doyle' into Google and you get loads of references to the English writer Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. Which I find vastly amusing... images of a concept album by the saxophonist – 'Horn of the Baskervilles,' anyone? Well, Holmes took dope and played the violin so plenty of room for cliché/archetype. Maybe he did a reverse Ornette: 'Pass me my alto, Dr Watson, man – got a gig...' Further whimsy - the title of the band playing on this album – Arthur Doyle Plus Four - seem to echo this gag – in the old school Brit golfing trouser department, perhaps.


But Doyle has played over here in the U.K. occasionally, although I've missed him live, unfortunately... Ah, the perils of the provincial life. This is 'Ancestor,' from 1978. Opening on a bass vamp – off in the distance somewhere, recording being a bit scruffy. Soon joined by a spatter of double drums and trombone moanings (Charles Stephens) like some lost cow, alternating with higher whoops. Doyle comes in on an angry squall as the sound world expands and builds, propelled by the two drummers. The resulting trombone figures give an air of Albert Ayler's simple but effective anthems, an anchoring around which Doyle swirls. Sudden ending. An effective free-for-all...

The first track from Roscoe Mitchell's 1992 album 'This dance is for Steve McCall,' 'Ericka.' Commencing with an almost bucolic saxophone – high purity. Joined by bass – two long-drawn deep notes. The two basses take over, a slow dark arco weave. The saxophone edges quietly back in and out, as if peeping out between billowing heavy curtains of velvet. Piano and drums engage – sporadic commentary. Sudden jump cut to drums/percussion upping the tempo – an African feel. Basses join and a long flow of piano that builds with stabbing chords and surging lines. Mitchell enters again, upping the game with chesty sax, coming to a rather sudden end.

The Elmo Hope Trio 1959, playing 'Minor Bertha.' Some nice piano swirls in this, Frank Butler cutting through with a few slashes as Bond holds it down tightly...

Arthur Doyle
Arthur Doyle (ts, cl, f) Charles Stephens (tr)Richard Williams (el-b) Rashied Sinan (d)

Buy - you'll have to hunt for this one...

Roscoe Mitchell and the Note Factory
Roscoe Mitchell (ss, as, ts, bamboo fl, perc) Matthew Shipp (p) Jaribu Shahid (b) William Parker (b, perc) Tani Tabbal, Vincent Davis (d, hand d)


Elmo Hope
Elmo Hope (p) Jimmy Bond (b) Frank Butler (d)
Minor Bertha


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Thelonious Monk... Johnny Griffin/Eddie Lockjaw Davis... Cannonball Adderley

Monk takes three minutes and fifteen seconds to stretch out on one chorus of 'I should care.' Slowed down for every crunching sonority to ring out to his quizzical ear, as if turning each small phrase round in his head before fingering the keyboard. Timing is all...

'Soft Winds,' from 'Tough Tenors' - by the tough tenors par excellence, Johnny Griffin and Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis. Earthy music, but played with the technical finesse that was required of musicians raised in bop and beyond. Johnny Griffin, of course, was a fearsome soloist at nightmare tempos, gunslinger supreme, although he developed his ballad playing as he got older. Davis was maybe not rated so highly - yet he could hold his own in most company. Yet: this is a relaxed performance that goes against the grain of their macho reputations. Sprightly piano from Junior Mance leads it in. Davis takes the first solo, prodding at a couple of riffs until he eventually wakes himself up with a fearsome r and b-like smear followed by some more fancy stuff. Mance comes up with his usual blues-inflections, bouncing nicely through. Griffin starts quietly, building slowly up to some r and b inflected call and response figures. An odd track in their canon, perhaps, more relaxed than some of the wilder workouts...

Cannonball Adderley was playing in the Miles Davis band when he made the 1958 Blue Note album 'Somethin' Else,' from which I have chosen brother Nat's composition 'One for Daddy O.' Easy swinging in, Cannon takes the first solo. Always something of a spring morning about his playing (or maybe it's because the sun is shining for once in God's Little Acre - in between the hail and rain). There was always a piping clarity to his lines that spun complexity and emotion into such an attractive dance. Ending as Blakey summons one of his mighty press-rolls and Miles is almost propelled forward by the air-pressure. Moving through the space in such a different way, with a more plaintive and shadowed emotion, some piercing high notes that cut straight through you. Hank Jones takes a sparkle of a solo and Cannon returns for some more, as does Miles, again using half as many notes, the contrast between the sparse and the plenty creating a dynamic that drives this album, as with so much of Davis's work. Although Miles could let rip when he felt the need, it wasn't so much a matter of technique, rather: sensibility and sensitivity to the occasion. Jones wraps up before they take the theme out. Miles was a guest on the session – although there is some dispute as to how much of a part he played overall on the date and his sign-off at the end of this track, the famous 'Is that what you wanted, Alfred?' seems to hint at a wider involvement. Still... who cares? This was a marvellous date, one of those places where various lines meet... on the apex of hard bop, with 'Kind of Blue' just round the corner. Cannon is an underrated sax player, I feel – probably because he was another who was touted as the 'New Bird' on his debut – who could live up to that? Or maybe because he went off and made some money before his tragic early death? Lest we forget - he stood alongside Miles and the burgeoning John Coltrane and always held his ground. Mercy mercy mercy...

More later: it looks as if the weather may permit a dash to the shops - if we are quick...

In the Videodrome...

Tough Tenors...

Cannonball talks about Bird and plays... the subject is... jazz...

Orrin Keepnews on Monk...

Thelonious Monk (p)
I should care


Johnny Griffin/Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis
Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Johnny Griffin (ts) Junior Mance (p) Larry Gales (b) Ben Riley (d)
Soft Winds


Cannonball Adderley
Julian Cannonball Adderley (as) Miles Davis (t) Hank Jones (p) Sam Jones (b) Art Blakey (d)
One for Daddy O


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Birthday... Cecil Taylor... Coleman Hawkins/Ben Webster... Annette Peacock... Rickie Lee Jones... Charles Gayle/John Tchicai...

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me... etc... Wouldn't have thought to make 61, to be honest. But every day is a blessing... Some music, then...

Cecil of course, on this day... From the infamous Victoriaville concert in 2002 – with Tony Oxley and Bill Dixon. This is 'T/CxB.' Nate Dorward, whose criticism reflected many others, hated Dixon's contribution: 'the trumpeter’s playing solipsistic, even weirdly infantile, in its regression to the sounds of gurgling, breathing and farting, its indifference to line, shape or direction, and its inability to enter into meaningful dialogue.' It's certainly a little different... Mind you, I thought Dixon was fascinating at the London concert a couple of years back, sculpting sound from his electronics... Not many shared my enthusiasm, it has to be said... à chacun son goût...

Two giants of the tenor saxophone playing 'It never entered my mind,' led in carefully by Oscar Peterson. Ben Webster swooshing through, master of the ballad, sprung on a tight rhythm section. Tenor as sonic painting rather than pyrotechnics – Webster reminds me of a deeper version of Johnny Hodges – whom he sat next to in the Ellington sax section in earlier years. To bounce off something Albert Ayler once said, this isn't about the notes – its about the sound and emotions. Hawk – a harder edge, the fountainhead of jazz tenor saxophone. Timeless.

Annette Peacock does Elvis – 'Love me tender.' From her record, 'I'm the one.' Elvis never a favourite singer of mine -I was always a Jerry Lee man... This is much better... IMHO...

Rickie Lee Jones I have always liked... This is the last track from her album 'Sermon on Exposition Boulevard,' 'I was there.'

Charles Gayle partnered up with John Tchicai for this 1988 date – from which I've taken the last cut, 'Then offer all.' One of the highspots of last year was seeing Gayle live in the U.K. twice and he's one of my totally favourite musicians. Nothing abstract about these truths...

Happy birthday to me... Onwards - Berlin in ten days! But today - lunch with my tribe... guess who's paying...

Cecil Taylor (p) Bill Dixon (t, bugle) Tony Oxley (d)


Coleman Hawkins/Ben Webster
Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster (ts) Oscar Peterson (p) Herb Ellis (g) Ray Brown (b) Alvin Stoller (d)
It never entered my mind


Annette Peacock
Tom Cosgrove (g) Stu Woods (b) Rick Morotta (d) Barry Altschul, Airto Moreira, Orestes Vilato, Domun Romao (perc) Annette Peacock - composer (music & words), arranger, producer, singer, electric vocals, pianos (acoustic & electric), synthesizers, electric vibraphone)
Love me tender

Buy – you'll have to search for this one...

Rickie Lee Jones
Rickie Lee Jones (v, g, dul, keys, Moog syn, xyl, b- g, perc) Peter Atanasoff (g, oud, background v) Bernie Larsen (gr, d); Pete Thomas, Rob Schnapf (ac- g) Joey Maramba (b-g) Jay Bellerose (d) Lee Cantelon (background v)
I was there


Charles Gayle
Charles Gayle (ts) John Tchicai (ts, ss) Sirone (b) Reggie Nicholson (d)
Then offer all


Benny Golson... Blind Willie Johnson... Cecil Taylor...

Bennie Golson arranged and conducted – but did not play on - his 1962 album 'Just Jazz. A selection of classic jazz themes, from which I have selected the old Basie number 'Moten Swing.' A stately, crisp theme statement, counter-pointed by some sharp comping from Bill Evans. Shorter takes the first solo, very quickly spinning off on long double-timed runs - that flavour of Coltrane still there, although his tone is more distant, foggy. Evans comes in next, locked hands style – almost like Red Garland – maybe it was the rhythm section – Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb, from Miles' band - that had echoes for him. The other ensemble that springs to mind looking at the front line – Blakey's Jazz Messengers, with whom Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller and Wayne Shorter were playing round the time of this session. Golson, of course had been in the band a couple of years before. Another geeky fact that points up this intermarriage – Miles occasionally had a trombone in his front line that year – Frank Rehak. Curtis Fuller has also been in his band during the late fifties. Golson's writing made a strong contribution to the evolution of the Messengers sound – the middle eight in the theme statements here has a certain swing and attack that reminds me of the Blakey group – although Jimmy Cobb is not such a violent hitter as Buhaina – crisp cymbals rather than surging press rolls from the left hand of God... Memo to self: must dig out my copy of Blakey's 'Free Jazz,' with Hubbard, Shorter and Fuller – a fiery, wild record.

The pride of Beaumont, Texas, Blind Willie Johnson singing 'God moves on the water' in 1929, a song about the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Superbly tight slide and accurate single note runs across a solid rhythm. The click of the bottleneck on the wood of the guitar gives an acoustic immediacy to the performance that cuts across the years. The hoarse gruff voice is shadowed superbly, question and answer back and forth. Johnson's God annihilates the worldly ambitions of the powerful:

'A.G. Smith, mighty man, built a boat that he couldn't understand
Named it a name of God in a tin, without a "c", Lord, he pulled it in.'

Some debate about this last line – including here... one for the detectives... although I guess that the sense is obvious - the old God Titan defeated by the Christian deity. Certainly - 'The Titanic... served as a warning about technology--about the hubris of a "progressive" age that believed it could subdue nature.' (Taken from a fascinating look at the cultural impact of the Titanic disaster here ). A related incident that would have had further personal resonance in African-American culture was the alleged refusal to allow Jack Johnson the boxer to travel first class:

'Champion boxer Jack Johnson supposedly was refused First-Class passage on the Titanic, due to the fact that he was a negro. He would not travel in the Second or Third-Class areas offered to him, because he thought it was below his stature. Disgusted, he did not board the Titanic, and travelled on another liner.' (From here ). Leadbelly famously mentions this in his (later) song about the Titanic...

'Jack Johnson wanna get on board, Captain said I ain't hauling no coal.
Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well.
When Jack Johnson heard that mighty shock, mighta seen the man do the Eagle rock.
Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well.'

I think they call it schadenfreude... But there were many songs written about the disaster... hubris writ large...

Early Cecil again – from 1961, this is 'Cindy's Main Mood, take one.' A three way improvisation between Neidlinger, Billy Higgins and Taylor, ushered in by the drums, as the bass thrums deep and Taylor joins them, pecking away at first, then lop-sided tumbling figures before the line starts to extend. When you compare this performance to the Golson track above, recorded a year later, a measure, perhaps, of the distance travelled by Taylor from his arrival in the fifties can be roughly sketched. On the jazz continuum (no argument there - one would hope)– the bass and drums ensure that - but far enough away from the hard bop norm to sound shocking in its acoustic disruptions and remakings. A session where two of the roads coming through the avant garde meet – the drummer had played with Ornette Coleman's ground-breaking group and, like the altoist, had started out in rhythm and blues. This track was on an album called 'New York R and B.' So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut used to say...

Bennie Golson
Freddie Hubbard (tp) Curtis Fuller (tb) Wayne Shorter (ts) Bill Evans (p) Paul Chambers (b) Jimmy Cobb (d) Benny Golson (arr, cond)
Moten Swing


Blind Willie Johnson (g,v)
God moves on the water


Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor (p)Buell Neidlinger (b)Billy Higgins (d)
Cindy's Main Mood (take one)