The bloody World Cup is here again so I am in need of (much) distraction, although not having a television helps to a certain extent... But, despite the fact that football bores the bejasus out of me, it would be churlish not to wish for the best in South Africa – a big moment for them.
And I am off to Devon tomorrow for a few days r and r and some biz. So:
The curse of the blogger of course, is to make rash statements: 'Apologies for being away but now I'm back etc' – to then disappear again. I have not posted any mp3s for some time and reviews have dried up somewhat as I have been busy on an ongoing project that has taken much time and energy. But I like to think that I can still roll one or two out here and there... Some jazz, some folk blues, some bluegrass, eclecticism rules as ever...
I posted Jimmy Guiffre's version of this sometime back – so here is the original, a recording of 'Blue Monk' made by the composer in 1954 with a trio, himself on piano, Percy Heath on bass and the redoubtable Art Blakey on drums. Over seven minutes long, giving them a chance to stretch out. Monk takes this at a sprightly tempo – he always plays this tune a fraction faster, I think, than you realise at first, the brain seems to say that it's a slower drag blues. He leaves plenty of space, floating phrases then suddenly doubling back, clenched repeating figures that suddenly spring out in an unexpected direction. Solid bass springs the track and Blakey knows when to push with quick cymbal spats and those trademark rolls, the battering triplets. Giuffre's version caught the pull of the time-line in the theme – at once archaic and modern and Monk of course, even more so now at this distance, proves this even deeper. Heath takes a fluent solo over Blakey backbeat hi-hat cymbal clips that continue into his own solo. Some hint of parade ground cadence that swings off sideways. Monk still in his springtime, on the cusp of greater recognition. And still fresh.
Miles from 1966: 'Dolores' a track on 'Miles Smiles.' Certain people regard this album as the last TRUE JAZZ acoustic Davis recording. Each to their own. What you do have is Miles coming to terms with the new wave and rock, both of which inflect on this album. Davis's Fifties Quintet was seen as a pinnacle of his art and certainly the rhythm section of that band took some beating – Philly Joe, Red Garland and Paul Chambers. Here the young drummer Tony Williams moves the band into new areas – I've always contended that jazz could not evolve any faster than its drummers. A lot of fifties attempts at moving the music beyond bebop fell foul of this rule... 'Dolores,' a Wayne Shorter composition opens uppishly on a line by tenor that falls into bass, band then bass again. Miles takes the first solo, open horn swirled along by William's wash of cymbals and a fast bass walk. No Hancock at first – Miles was always a master of space but with this quintet he was to explore the frontiers anew. Shorter follows Hancock enters at last on a single note line, leaving his left hand at home. Without chords being sketched, the linearities can take unexpected directions Peppy and fresh...
Another American treasure - Doc Watson playing 'Deep River Blues.' Just the Doc and his acoustic guitar, some fine picking and that warm baritone voice. Recorded in 1964, the album this comes from was a staple round our house several years later as all the guitar players worked out their own versions of many of the songs.
Alton and Rabon Delmore, brothers born in Alabama, pioneers of country music, regulars in the Grand Old Opry from the thirties onwards. (The Opry is the longest running radio show in the U.S. I discovered on the Wikipedia entry – I knew it had been around a long time but not that long!). Like Doc Watson, interestingly they crossed styles as and when, no doubt confounding purists, who seem to have little understanding at a distance of the commercial moves a musician makes. Their version of 'Big River Blues' is an antecedent of the above 'Deep River Blues' and gives a fascinating contrast in linked but different styles. Singing in close harmony, straight out of the high lonesome, backed by interweaving guitars, whether it's because they come from an earlier generation, one can track the rhythmic differences. They are just that fraction more four-square than the Doc, albeit that the lead bounces nicely off the accompaniment. Much more country, as well, Doc's voice reminding me oddly of a folk blues Jack Teagarden. In another strange reversal, later in their career, during the forties, they added electric guitar and drums – Doc Watson had started his professional career playing electric guitar in a country/western swing band. I gather his superb flat-picking technique came in part from playing fiddle tunes on the electric, in later years moving them onto his acoustic guitar.
Searing stuff from Max Roach and company – 'Mendacity,' recorded in 1961, from his album 'Percussion Bitter Sweet.' Booker Little leads the ensemble in on soured trumpet before the Abbey Lincoln takes the song. A chorus then stopped by an ensemble surge. Then the incomparable Eric Dolphy's alto – talk about 'vocalisation of tone' – this reminds me of the musical conversations he had with Charles Mingus in the quartet that recorded equally biting music - 'Faubus Fables' etc. Another ensemble punctuation then Max takes his equipment out front, the most musical of drummers, chunks of silence after each statement. An unusual solo that stops and starts, stops and starts, yet with a narrative line throughout. Far from the ker-ching of orthodox modern jazz - the times were a-changing in many ways. Abbey Lincoln returns, the lyric darkly spelling out the racism these musicians and their people endured. Angry, righteous music.
Thelonious Monk (p) Percy Heath (b) Art Blakey (d)
Miles Davis (t) Wayne Shorter (ts) Herbie Hancock (p) Ron Carter (b) Tony Williams (d)
Doc Watson (g, v)
Deep River Blues
Delmore Brothers (g, v)
Big River Blues
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)