Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Shelly Manne... Spontaneous Music Ensemble... Thelonious Monk...

Shelly Manne made an album called 'The Three and the Two' in 1954 – the Three being himself, Shorty Rogers on trumpet, Jimmy Giuffre on assorted saxes and clarinet, the Two a duo with Russ Freeman on piano. No bass on either – which poses interesting questions in both lineups... These days we are used to drum/other instrument duos – at the time it was fairly radical in modern jazz, especially because of the changes in the rhythm section that had come about, where the bass is much more the basic rhythmic pivot, freeing up the drums. I have chosen two tracks, one from each lineup – both of them Charlie Parker lines - in an attempt to measure some the continuities - and fractures – that Mann was attempting. Arguably, to come at bop from his own direction, in the spirit of inquiry which was the flipside to what is usually seen as 'cool school' simplifications and embrace of commercial success. I think that one of the main impulses in West Coast experimental musics as such was an emphasis on counterpoint in an effort to acquire a greater freedom of linearity from what were increasingly perceived in some quarters as restrictive bop orthodoxies by the fifties. (A measure of the speed of the music's development, as well...). For white musicians, perhaps an attempt to come to terms with the black origins of jazz by attempting to graft more consciously 'European' devices onto the music? As a white European (sort of), one speculates... I do not profess to know the answer - and it is a tricky/dangerous subject to explore without coming across as some wishy-washy liberal apologist – or bigotedly ignoring the harsh and brutal cultural and political realities of post-slavery America. A fascinating blog post by Evan Iverson takes up the thorny subject of the white-black dynamic in jazz at some length, via a consideration of Lennie Tristano and Barack Obama's recent speech. I might take issue with some of his conclusions but to tackle the subject at all is a brave and considered step... Something else I learned from this piece – that Tristano apparently had no time for Monk – put him down badly/offensively, in fact... Tristano is a musician I admire and regard as very underrated – so this was a shock. But, like I say, these are tricky issues – which should be met head on...

The music: a busy opening on 'Billies Bounce' as the piano takes the lead and the left hand covers for lack of bass by ranging deep and busy – some heavy chording in places. Manne ranges freely – always a melodic drummer, concerned with timbre. The exchanges with Freeman point this up... the pianist also keeps to the middle and lower registers to give a full sound, less forays up the keyboard than you would hear if a bass was there to cover the bottom end. This gives a feeling of earlier two-fisted piano styles crossed with modern harmonies – and stomps along nicely.

'Steeplechase' is introduced by the drums before the horns weave in a dissonant counterpoint, a stop-start feel to the first sixteen bars and in the last eight. Giuffre solos first, Giuffre laying down a fairly insistent four – to compensate for the lack of bass? The use of baritone against the trumpet gives a feeling of the Mulligan Quartet refracted into a more abstracted/fragmented area. Rogers was always an attractive player with an ear for the experimental. Some busy exchanges between drums and the two horns. A sideways tipping of bop into something else – less frenetic than Bird would be yet still busy, the lack of bass or piano offering and opening up free spaces...

Plucks, thumps, sporadic drum hits, a single saxophone note followed by another, chomped off, sparsely spattered, the free rhythm slowly gathers pace as Stevens becomes busier. A succession of almost discreet moments that overlap enough between the three participants to move the performance along. This is the English group 'Spontaneous Music Ensemble,' a trio in this manifestation, of John Stevens, Trevor Watts and Kent Carter, playing 'Rambunctious One.' Pioneering free improv of the Brit variety, pointillist and rigorous, coming from 'jazz' but going elsewhere into distanced considerations of manipulating sounds moving through space and time, taking the instruments to the edges of conventional technique and beyond. Building up a fair head of steam as it progresses, an image in my mind of three people walking in to a room, strewing various fragments about and slowly assembling them, as the lines become longer, more developed. Carter's bass returns in places to an almost conventional role, yet the grounding as such timbrally comes from Stevens - contrast and compare to Shelly Manne above...although the rhythms are much more exploded and stretched. I would hazard that Manne was doing something similar back in 1954...

We started on the West Coast – to return, Monk at the Blackhawk club with a pickup band in 1960. East meets West and the combination defies Kipling's strictures... An unusal lineup for Monk who favoured quartets in the main, to his usual tenor man Charlie Rouse are added Joe Gordon and Harold Land to flesh out the front line. His regular bass player of the time, John Orr, is aided by Billy Higgins on drums. 'Worry later', also known as 'San Francisco Holiday,' is the selection. This album never seems to figure much in the Monk canon but it has always been one of my favourites from when I bought it on first release many (many) years ago. A great live recording, evocative because of the extraneous noises, snatches of conversation, glasses chinking etc... Higgins leads it in with the rhythmic figure of the theme – one of those nagging, stabbing lines that are pure Monk. Rouse takes the first solo, always dependable but sounding quite frisky here. Joe Gordon next, warm of tone and spirit, playing well considering the nature of the music. Land is always interesting – especially here, thrown in to the maelstrom at such short notice. Some commentators have criticised their contributions because of the hurried nature in which the date was organised – Monk's music not easy to drop into etc. Precisely because of this, I find them interesting – but I'm perverse... Monk emits his perennial twists turns, sudden drops and rhythmic displacements, the usual fascinating interrogations. An oddly satisfying closing of the circle here – he was supposed to play with the musician who started this sequence, Shelly Manne, but they did not gel, apparently, so this session was hastily arranged and recorded.

In the Videodrome...

Tristano in Copenhagen – wonderful wonderful, etc...

and with the quintet at the Half Note 1964...

Warne Marsh in Berlin...with Klook...

Kenny Clarke/Bud Powell/Clark Terry in Paris 1959...

Mingus in Milan 1976...

Ornette dances in your head...

at Bonnaroo last year...

Some Johnny Shines slide...


Shelly Manne
(Shelly Manne (d) Shorty Rogers (t), Jimmy Guiffre (bs) Russ Freemn (p)
Billie's Bounce
Download
Steeplechase
Download

Buy

Spontaneous Music Ensemble
John Stevens (perc, v) Trevor Watts (ss) Kent Carter (b)
Rambunctious One
Download


Buy
(Scroll down to '2 cd sets')

Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk (p) Charlie Rouse, Harold Land (ts) Joe Gordon (t) John Orr (b) Billy Higgins (d)
Worry Later
Download


Buy

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

29047126483369175 I play dofus Replica Watches for one year, I Replica Rolex Watches want to get some Replica Watch kamas to buy Replica Chanel Watches item for my character. So, I search "Replica Swiss Watches" on google and found many website. As Exact Replica Graham Watch the tips from the forum, I just review the Swiss Replica Watches websites and choose some Replica Montblanc Watches quality sites to Replica Cartier Watches compare the price, and go to their Replica Breguet Watches online support to make Replica Breitling Watches the test. And Last Chaos Gold I decide to use Replica BRM Watch at the end. And Tag Heuer Replica Watch that is the Replica IWC Watch beginning..