Sunday, May 25, 2008

Charlie Parker/JATP... Frank Sinatra/Count Basie... Frank Wright...

A wet, cold bank holiday so far here in God's Little Acre... Something to cheer me up. Old School... This is 'The Opener' from a Jazz at the Philharmonic concert in 1949. I can remember way back various critics being sniffy about JATP and Norman Grantz – as if people enjoying the music in a live setting and musicians responding with a bit of rabble-rousing was somehow not the done thing. What crap... Flip Phillips opens up the batting here with some rip-snorting tenor. Tommy Turk cools it down a bit with a fine solo - why was he such an obscure figure? Lester sidles in, lithe and detached but getting almost enervated as the background riffing picks up to boot him along. Then the sublime Bird... Playing further 'in' than usual, locking things down in place with a couple of his patented blues phrases – drums were not Max or Kenny Clarke which would have given him a better cushion. (Buddy Rich is four-square but that doesn't matter so much in the overall context perhaps). But still unmistakably THE BIRD... Hank Jones next, some rather spiffing piano - heard very clearly for once – many of those old live recordings were a bit iffy. Then Roy Eldridge – ripping and stabbing at notes, one of the great trumpeters, the link from swing to Diz, surely. Sure its grandstanding – but breathes there a man (or woman) with soul so dead they cannot dig? Also, an interesting transition being documented – swing to bop (with some r and b elements thrown in) and although the differences are there – re my remarks about Buddy Rich, for example – somehow it doesn't seem such a jump between the two. At this point with hindsight it is evident that modern jazz hadn't been totally disenfranchised from swing - as many of the boppers had started in big bands etc, no matter their subsequent stylistic transgressions into 'Chinese Music' (as Louis dubbed it - an early reaction subsequently recanted). Voltaire said: 'All styles are good except the tiresome kind.' Yup...

In a similar vein... A grand meeting of pop and jazz, from the days when popular music was not that far away from jazz. Combining the sheer drive, swing and snap of the Count's band with the majestic presence of old Francis Albert performing 'I believe in you.' The Basie band punch in like a well-oiled machine embedded with soul if that makes sense and Frank enters for a smooth dance over the top of their contained power, his phrasing a delight - learned in the big band trade during his apprenticeship with Tommy Dorsey - whose trombone phrasing he emulated vocally. Although that early gig was not a smooth ride - see here...

So inexorably to the New Thing... Frank Wright on his second recording date in 1967 for fabled free jazz label ESP. 'The Lady,' taken from the album 'Our Prayer.' Starting with the ensemble horns playing the rather attractive head at a slowish pace as the bass runs around underneath leading the drums in a faster rhythmic contrast. Arthur Jones, one of those who popped up briefly and then disappeared not long after (unfortunately – what a good player!), takes a smearing bluesy solo. Nice blog piece on him sometime back on Destination Out . Coursil – who turned up in New York in the sixties and made a couple of stunning appearances on ESP – starts slow over the busy rhythms, following the logic of the theme - then cranks it up mightily. Lowe comes in in Ayler-ish fashion – you can hear the influence strongly. Oddly enough – or not – this brings the blogpost full circle for me... is JATP really so far away from the tonal distortions here – that one could also hear in the African American church as well as in r and b honking horns? And: Coursil's bravura trumpet is surely not so far from Roy Eldridge? There is a freshness to this music that I find very appealing.

The name of the bass player, Steve Tintweiss, intrigued me as I couldn't place it straight away. Googled however to find some interesting info here – and a nice quote from the article about this session:

“All of us, except for Jacques Coursil the trumpet player, were all on acid for that record. We had learned to use LSD in a disciplined way, as a tool. We were able to discipline ourselves to be able to play and fulfill our obligations.”

Far out, as they say. Actually, after I read further, I remembered who he was - the bass player on Albert Ayler's last date, in Europe, a track from which I put up way back. Maybe more from that soon – that's the way this blog works -jump cuts and random movements diagonally...But fun, essentially...

Wonder if the weather will improve today?

Charlie Parker et al/Jazz at the Philharmonic
Charlie Parker (as) Flip Phillips, Lester Young (ts) Tommy Turk (tr) Roy Eldridge (t) Hank Jones (p) Ray Brown (b) Buddy Rich (d)
The Opener


Frank Sinatra/Count Basie
I believe in you


Frank Wright
Frank Wright (ts) Arthur Jones (as) Jacques Coursil (t) Steve Tintweiss (b) Muhammad Ali (d)


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