Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Yusef Lateef... Francis 'Scrapper' Blackwell... Max Roach...
Yusef Lateef recorded 'The Centaur and the Phoenix' in 1961. This is 'Every day (I fall in love),' a slow, gorgeous reading, bursting with sonorities and colour. Lateef features his flute here, against a plangent backdrop of three brass and two reeds (the unusual combo of baritone sax and bassoon). The theme unfolds in thick dense streams, as if conjuring the movement from deep sleep to slow awakening – when the flute solos, it has that sprightly morning feel of something new reborn again. What the hell, I'm in a soft and soppy mood, spending the morning with my extremely pregnant daughter. (Not long now!).
Back to the blues... Francis 'Scrapper' Blackwell has been a favourite of mine since I first heard his music in Dublin circa 1970, at the apartment of Merve the Perve who had an extensive collection of blues and sundry other unusual musics ( which I think he had brought back from his sojourn in the States). And where I first stayed with Veronica K (wonder where she is now? Ah, regrets... sigh... ). Blackwell achieved much fame and some fortune playing with Leroy Carr in the late twenties but is a fine performer on his own, his snapping single string guitar breaks proving his musicianship and influencing many guitar players to come. This is 'Kokomo Blues,' a steady rolling twelve bar, solid guitar chording alternating with those famous Blackwell breaks. His voice reminds me slightly of Bukka White... Fascinating interview with him in the sixties here...
Out on wings of fire... where bebop and Afro-Cuban rhythms intersected with the early sixties avant garde and Afro-American politics of the day – Max Roach leads a tempestuous band through the album 'Percussion Bitter Sweet' whose title gives a strong hint of the storms raised here. This track: 'Marcus Garvey's Ghost.' Abbey Lincoln's voice blends wordlessly with the ensemble over the rising thunder of the drums and added percussion, threaded on an insistent cowbell rhythm. Art Blakey was noted for being a powerhouse drummer but Max is just burning here – savage AND subtle. Booker Little solos, then Clifford Jordan, but good as they are, the torrential drums are the focus. Roach takes a fizzling solo, imperious rolls, slashed cymbals. Art Davis is a bit buried in the mix but his bass makes itself known. Mal Waldron not much in evidence here, some occasional comping. And the wild card of the session, Eric Dolphy, who takes some stunning solos on other tracks, is not featured either. Not that it matters – this is a classic track from a classic album. Anger filed to a razor's edge of instrumental brilliance... More of this with some Dolphy soon, I think...
'We are the bearers of the world's bright torch
To light our civilization as we go:
No one should fall or lodge at darkness' porch;
Right well we teach the people all to know:
There's much for us to do in toil of love,
In helping others as we climb the heights;
It is for us to reach and lift above
Those who are struggling up through gloomy nights.'
Marcus Garvey, from 'The Bearers' (1927), quoted from here...
Richard Williams (tp) Clark Terry (flh, tp) Curtis Fuller (tb) Josea Taylor (basn) Yusef Lateef (ts, fl, argol, ob) Tate Houston (bars) Joe Zawinul (p) Ben Tucker (b) Lex Humphries (d)
Every Day (I fall in love)
Scrapper Blackwell (v, g)
Booker Little (tp) Julian Priester (tb) Eric Dolphy (as) Clifford Jordan (ts) Mal Waldron (p) Art Davis (b) Max Roach (d) Carlos "Patato" Valdes (cga) Carlos "Totico" Eugenio (cowbell) Abbey Lincoln (vo)