Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Mark Murphy... Anthony Braxton... Last Exit... Pee Wee Russell...

The recent house move has uncovered many a box of buried stuff – I just discovered this Mark Murphy album 'Midnight Mood,' from which I have selected the last track 'I get along without you very well.' Credit to whomever I downloaded this from as it is not one of my acquisitions. A curio – it was recorded in Europe in 1967, featuring a group underpinned by Kenny Clarke, alongside the co-leader of his big band,the French pianist Francy Boland. With just the trio backing him, Murphy starts over a sparse reiterated piano pedal tone that eventually moves to sketch the harmony. Bass and drums join the piano eventually – now elaborating more. Bittersweet musings from a great jazz singer.

Weirdly enough, I had a dream last night that I was playing a gig as a singer with Frank Sinatra and Count Basie. Francis Albert and myself were out front, chatting to the Count and for some surreal reason I had a big bag of apples in the pocket of my tuxedo which I proceeded to hand out to everyone. Ummm... any interesting interpretations?

I was going to post this some time ago but noticed in time that Destination Out had put it up the same week so didn't want to clash. Then it went into the box and has only just surfaced on the latest rotation... This is 'Track Three' from Anthony Braxton's 1976 album, 'Creative Orchestra Music.'. Starting off as a jaunty march(I kid you not – in Graham Lock's book about Braxton, he is quoted as saying how much he loved and respected John Philip Souza). But nothing is ever as it seems with AB – his music can twist and turn on a penny. Plus the multi-layering which is a great American musical tradition – as if the acoustic spaces are matching the physical scale of the country – a democracy of layers that you see in Charles Ives and onwards - and in Sousa according to Braxton. In my erratic canonical delineation that leads through Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys up to Ornette Coleman. And backwards – to Walt Whitman, piling long line on on top of long line as he tries to cram the whole experience of his country into long scrambles of words:

'Seasons pursuing each other, the plougher ploughs, the mower mows, and the winter-grain falls in the ground;
Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by the hole in the frozen surface;
The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter strikes deep with his axe;
Flatboatmen make fast, towards dusk, near the cottonwood or pekan-trees;
Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red river, or through those drain’d
by the Tennessee, or through those of the Arkansaw;
Torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chattahoochee or Altamahaw;
Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great-grandsons around them;
In walls of adobie, in canvas tents, rest hunters and trappers after their day’s sport;
The city sleeps, and the country sleeps;
The living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for their time;
The old husband sleeps by his wife, and the young husband sleeps by his wife;
And these one and all tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them;
And such as it is to be of these, more or less, I am. ' (Walt Whitman: 'Leaves of Grass,' lines 309-320).

And onwards...

'Skippy' is one of those mad, skittery fast Monk tunes from his early days. Braxton again, exploring the tradition with a quartet on this track, taken from the 1987 album, 'Six Monk's Compositions.' Taken at a fair lick, Braxton flies over the manic remorseless march of chords. Piano takes a solo, hewing close to theme and structure – a difficult composition to step far out of. Neidlinger holds it all together – Bill Osborne's drums are back in the mix, making themselves known occasionally with a supple rip or two. Sounds like great fun was had – but everyone probably breathed a collective sigh of relief at the end... Monk's muse can often seem like an enormous, enigmatic wall of fortified glass that repels those who hurl themselves blindly at it. These guys find enough windows to enter...

Last Exit were a powerhouse band – electronic free jazz with a punk edge. Or something... The disparate gathering of musicians were Peter Brotzmann, Sonny Sharrock, Bill Laswell and Ronald Shannon Jackson and they played some wild stuff. Here is 'Panzer Bebop,' fittingly marshalled in by martial drums then Jackson spelling out some melodic figures before Sharrock throws jagged shards of electric guitar across the line and Brotzmann comes storming in. The backbeat surfaces, ridden by the guitar as the tenor howls and squeals in the wind. Storm subsiding over a repeated bass drum da dum. Into a swaying boogie... This is what jazz-rock should have been...

Jaunty bouncing piano leads in on 'Lulu's back in town,' followed by Buck Clayton who leads the theme in on muted trumpet, then the leader, Pee Wee Russell, and his more oblique clarinet, each taking 8 bars in turn. Clayton is straight out of Louis, of course, but a man who developed his own style in the various situations he played in – from a stint in Shanghai (!) in the thirties before he joined the mighty Basie Band. And onwards to a career as arranger, composer and bandleader, apart from his trumpet duties. Russell, clarinet player extraordinaire embedded for all those years on Condon's dixieland sessions, here showing his stuff with a tight mainstream band. Pee Wee takes the first solo, some warm and fuzzy low down contrasted with the higher register querularity. Clayton follows, mellow burnished trumpet. Piano next, some eloquent restatements and embellishments. Riding out old school with some drum breaks interspersed. Joyful stuff.

Mark Murphy
Mark Murphy (v) Francy Boland (p) Jimmy Woode (b) Kenny Clarke (d)
I get along without you very well


Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton (as, cl) Seldon Powell (as) Bruce Johnstone (bs) Ronald Bridgewater (ts) Roscoe Mitchell (bass-s) Kenny Wheeler, Cecil Bridgewater, Leo Smith, Jon Faddis (t) George Lewis, Garrett List (tr) Earl McIntyre, Jack Jeffers (b-tr) Jonathan (tuba) Muhal Richard Abrams (p) Dave Holland, (b) Warren Smith (d) Karl Berger (glock) Barry Atschul (sn-d) Frederick Rzewski (b-d) Phillip Wilson ( marching cymbals) Leo Smith (cond)
Piece Three


Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton (as) Mal Waldron (p) Buell Neidlinger (b) Bill Osborne (d)


Last Exit
Peter Brotzmann (ts) Sonny Sharrock (el-g) Bill Laswell (b) Ronald Shannon Jackson (d)
Panzer Bebop


Pee Wee Russell
Buck Clayton (tp) Pee Wee Russell (cl) Tommy Flanagan (p) Wendell Marshall (b)
Osie Johnson (d)
Lulu's Back in Town


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