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
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Johnny Griffin/Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis
Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Johnny Griffin (ts) Junior Mance (p) Larry Gales (b) Ben Riley (d)
Soft Winds
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Cannonball Adderley
Julian Cannonball Adderley (as) Miles Davis (t) Hank Jones (p) Sam Jones (b) Art Blakey (d)
One for Daddy O
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