Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Francis 'Scrapper' Blackwell... Max Roach... Donald Byrd... Booker Ervin... Art Blakey... Derek Bailey...

I promised a commenter some more Francis 'Scrapper' Blackwell – so here's the man giving out 'Blue Day Blues.' He really is one of the missing links between twenties country blues and later urban styles – introducing more linearity via the single-string breaks, for example. No mean singer either...

From his 1967 album 'Blackjack,' this is Donald Byrd heading up a septet on 'Pentatonic.' Sonny Red solos first, a querulous piping sound to his alto. Byrd takes over, an assured performance, fast and accurate. Hank Mobley next, playing on his harder edge here. Cedar Walton, tumbling, rippling piano. Billy Higgins ensures that no one sleeps, punching the track along.

Max in Paris, 1949. This group is essentially the Charlie Parker quintet from that year with Bird out and James Moody in to partner trumpeter Kenny Dorham up front. 'Maximum,' the track. Bop of the highest calibre, stunning drums at a rapid tempo where everyone is locked onboard, not daring to jump off the rollercoaster ride – falter at this speed and you are dead...

Some more from one of my favourite big-hearted power tenors – the late Booker Tellefero Ervin and a track from one of his 'Book' series, 'Tex Book Tenor,' '204.' Woody Shaw at his shoulder guarantees superior front-line backup... Opens on stabbing piano before they hit a smooth uppish line – nothing more than an expanded riff, really, before the Book roars out straight from the blocks. Some high wild playing but always a strong thread of melody – a mix of accessible tinged with a tough bluesy edge that timbrally links old tenor keenings to the more recent avant-garde hollers – pretty much the same thing really, only changed by context and concept. Some dizzying playing here... Woody Shaw comes screaming in after him and unreels some beautifully knotted lines. The young Kenny Baron next, fleet and sure. Billy Higgins whams it all along in grand style, tracking every move, stepping up to trade with the horns . Jean Arnet solid throughout under the fire. A certain similarity to the Donald Byrd track above – the presence of Higgins on both maybe the defining factor – rhythmically supple and continually thrusting and prodding. Recorded a year later for the same label, part of that sixties Blue Note take on hard bop crossed with hints of the freer moves of the time.

Following on from that point, here's the mighty Buhaina leading one of his greatest congregations of Jazz Messengers on the stunning album 'Free for all.' I upped the title track a ways back, so here is the Freddy Hubbard composition 'The Core.' Curtis Fuller really thickened the usual band sound, adding deeper sonorities and expanded instrumental options apart from his soloing skills – this is BIG sonics. Wayne Shorter takes off first, sounding urgent – as how could he not with Blakey's firepower at storm force behind? Freddy Hubbard next, speed, accuracy and ideas – a man who was at the height of his game. Fuller cools things a fraction – the trombone does not quite soar timbrally as much as tenor and trumpet over the thunderous, dense backdrop. Fluent – you are aware of the J.J. influence perhaps, but with a more 'tromboney' sound, if that makes sense, a pleasing gruffness hinting at earlier stylists. Cedar Walton stomps in for his piece of the action before the razor-sharp ensemble returns for the theme. Blakey is just plain WILD throughout... I remember hearing this when it came out in the U.K. so many years back and it excites me just as much now... and I saw Blakey with a late manifestation of his band in a rather odd venue and when he was getting on in years - but the sheer force of his drumming was intoxicating, belying his age...

We like to jumpcut...

Opening on overspeeded drums (courtesy of DJ Ninj) as the mighty Derek Bailey slashes in and pours his hard scrabble guitar all over the first track of his 1996 album 'Guitar, drums and bass.' 'N, J, BM (remix)'. Improv meets the London street sounds of the time... I think this is a very underrated album: oddly, the rather staid programming lets Derek fly, acting as an earth to his fire... Or something...

Francis 'Scrapper' Blackwell (g, v)
Blue Day Blues


Donald Byrd
Donald Byrd (tp) Sonny Red (as) Hank Mobley (ts) Cedar Walton (p) Walter Booker (b) Billy Higgins (d)


Max Roach
Kenny Dorham (tp) James Moody (ts) Al Haig (p) Tommy Potter (b) Max Roach (d)


Booker Ervin
Booker Ervin (ts) Woody Shaw (t) Kenny Barron (p) Jan Arnet (b) Billy Higgins (d)


Art Blakey
Art Blakey (d) Wayne Shorter (ts) Freddie Hubbard (t) Curtis Fuller (tr) Cedar Walton (p) Reggie Workman (b)
The Core


Derek Bailey (el-g) DJ Ninj (drum/bass programming)
N, JZ, BM (remix)



Anonymous said...

Love Cedar. Absolutely underrated.

Rod... said...

...very true - he doesn't seem to come up onto the radar as much as he should have. I first heard him on the Blakey album I featured here - 'Free for all,' one of the best albums ever - IMHO...