Friday, August 22, 2008

Red Garland... Jackie McLean... Rob Brown/Joe Morris... King Oliver... Count Basie/Frank Sinatra...

Red Garland leads a quintet for the long title track of his 1957 album 'Soul Junction.' A name very much of its time... The pianist leads in a slow blues with several choruses of rippling funky lines. Something always cleanly hit about Garland's technique, a finely calibrated springiness. The trademark block chords arrive later on, alternating with the single note strategy.. Coltrane enters, changing the mood into something more questing – as always, he seems to move the music into a different zone. Looking in front of the day while still secure on the back foot of the blues. Donald Byrd is secure and fleet while Art Taylor stirs sporadically behind him with some Blakey-like prodding. Garland returns for some rolling two-fisted sport to take it out.

Jackie McLean recorded the splendidly titled 'Swing Swang Swinging' in 1959 from which I have selected 'Let's face the music and dance.' Something I would have a problem with at the moment, reduced to gimp mode by the broken toe. Let's face the music anyway... Straight in at a sprightly bounce, McLean leads a solid quartet on this 1959 Blue Note date who all sound as if they are enjoying themselves. Art Taylor is on tough form, Garrison runs fast and deep, Bishop looking after the chords. Alto takes a joyous solo followed by piano - channelling Bud, slap bang in the bop tradition as is the whole of this session. Bishop had played with Bird before his death and McLean was seen as one of the heirs to Parker - this reminds me slightly of some of those later quartet sessions Bird made. Recorded 4 years after his death, something of a looking back perhaps, at a time when McLean was about to launch forwards into his own take on the coming New Thing, blown on the winds that Ornette was to send west to east.

'The music needs no further explanation. As Alfred Lyons said: “They came, swung, they split. That's why we called the album 'Swing, Swang, Swinging.' (from Ira Gitler's liner notes).

The Rob Brown/Joe Morris quartet playing 'Results.' Opens on splats, bangs and squiggles – or pointillism, mes braves. The bass starts to run free, with some stops and starts, the drums suddenly roll violently and sax and guitar spar in snatched grapples. Brown takes it up, with Morris occasionally throwing in a shard of comping and an answering or complementary line before he emerges to solo as the others pull back to let him through. The storm rises soon enough – this track never comes completetly to rest. Brown comes back to riff behind the guitar before Parker takes an arco solo. Rob Brown next, jumping across intervals with a Dolphy-esque skip across Morris's acid chording. Free for all to fall into the drums of Krall before they all return - Brown especially passionate and vocal, taking another fine section after the bass and drums indulge in a quieter interlude. Finely positioned quartet work that shows both ensemble and solo in perfect balance.

Back to the roots – King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, the avant garde of 1923 I put 'Dippermouth Blues' up some time back – but what the hell, here it is again, such a joyous piece of music. And I get the chance to riff: 'Oh play that thing!'

Another King Oliver, to make up for the repetition... 'Snake Rag.' There is a very good blog post on this track here (this blog dedicated to Louis Armstrong's life and work). By the way, this is the Gennett version. You have to make a certain leap of the imagination to really get to this music I think – disregard the fact that Baby Dodds' drums were reduced to woodblock minimalism by virtue of the early recording techniques, for example – but if you can create a channel, what joy... King Oliver in his heyday firing out the twin cornet breaks that thrilled the audiences at the Lincoln Gardens in Chicago with his protégé young Louis Armstrong, who was about to blow out the ramparts of New Orleans collective improvisation. Oliver is another tragic figure, in many ways – apparently when he was in New York a few years later he turned down the Cotton Club gig – which launched Duke Ellington and his band to greater glories...

Ring a ding ding – here's Francis Albert essaying forth on 'Hello Dolly,' backed by the mighty Basie ork. (Barbra Who?) 'This is Francis, Louie.' Some show biz fun... Recorded in 1964, a year or so after I saw Bill Basie and co at the Leicester De Montfort Hall. Ah, the memory of the messianic clenched craziness of a teenage jazz fan...

So: I came. I swung. Time to split. Man...

Red Garland
John Coltrane (ts) Donald Byrd (t) Red Garland (p) George Joyner (b) Arthur Taylor (d)
Soul Junction


Jackie McLean
Jackie McLean (as) Walter Bishop (p) Jimmy Garrison (b) Art Taylor (d)
Let's face the music and dance


Rob Brown/Joe Morris 4
Rob Brown (as) Joe Morris (g) William Parker (b) Jackson Krall (d)


King Oliver, Louis Armstrong: (c) Johnny Dodds (cl) Honore Dutray (tr) Lil Hardin (p) Bill Johnson (b, banjo) Baby Dodds (d)
Dippermouth Blues

Snake Rag


Count Basie Orchestra plus Frank Sinatra (v)
Hello Dolly


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