Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Jazz, rock, funk – take your pick... three from Elton Dean, Miles Davis and Brian Auger/Julie Tippett...

Apologies, amigos... I've been doing other things, went to Dublin last week and got wrecked when I came back so was out of action... But onwards...

This week I'm going electric: three disparate tracks from jazz musicians who have used electronic instruments and embraced elements of rock and funk. One would havethought that the Miles Davis track from 'On the Corner' would have been the first recording of this sequence, given his pioneering embrace of technology and being regarded as the fountainhead of jazz-rock from 'Bitches Brew' onwards. But Auger recorded the album 'Streetnoise' a couple of years before – and there was an interesting scenario playing out in the UK during the sixties with the overlapping and mixing of styles between jazz, blues, R and B etc. Blues/R and B being the catalyst and the area where all of it came together. I'm thinking of bands like Alexis Corner's Blues Incorporated and the Graham Bond Organisation – both of whom I saw several times in the mid-sixties. Korner – singer and so-so guitar player used to bolster his group with the best jazzers available when he went out on the road. Graham Bond had been a fiery jazz alto sax player, winner of Young Jazz musician of the year when he was with Don Rendell's group (saw them as well – they were great!). Then as the Beat Boom and the R and B boom rolled on, he formed a band with jazzers Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Dick Heckstall-Smith – (someone else who saw no boundaries in music as opposed to many other modern jazz musicians then and now) – and featured himself on vocals, electric organ and sax – often playing sax and organ at the same time. A fat wild man in a kaftan, a far cry from the bebop cool and lounge suits of his previous incarnation. Performing a lot of Chicago Blues overlaid with gritty chunks of hard bop, the organ sound of Jimmy Smith and Jack Mc Duff et al transported well into these set ups. And the lineage was there to be found – organ and tenor groups in jazz had been around for a while where the edges between R and B and jazz were blurred – especially in the hard bop/soul jazz camp coming out of the Jazz Messengers as prime example – blowing hard on Bobby Timmons tunes. Not to forget Cannonball Adderley – who had established his credentials and played on one of the the sublimely definitive jazz recordings – 'Kind of Blue.' With Miles... Much of this history is intricately interlinked and I have no time to unravel it all here. Just to note that Joe Zahwinul came out of Miles' lineups and also played in the Adderley Brothers band and wrote 'Mercy Mercy Mercy'- which was to figure large in the repertoire of British r and b'ers who did the crossover ride (he of course went on to found 'Weather Report'), along with 'Work Song,' 'Moanin'' from the Blakey book – a Timmons tune that was a big juke box hit. R and B and jazz had never been far from each other in the States – when they came together in the UK and before 'fusion' became the great bland out some interesting sparks were struck.

Here's an interesting site about Graham Bond
which has a lot of archive reviews giving a flavour of the times.

Brian Auger
paralleled Graham Bond. From Young Jazz Musician of the Year on piano to electronic outcast on organ who saw way beyond the ghetto that modern jazz could frequently become... He eventually re-located to the US where he figured that his eclecticism would be better appreciated. The two tracks here are from 'Streetnoise' – the last recordings with Julie Driscoll until a brief reunion in 1977, I think. 'Light my Fire' is a waltzy take on the tune made famous by Jose Feliciano and The Doors and shows off Auger's bluesy organ style. I don't think Driscoll has ever made a bad record – her majestic voice slow burnsthroughout - to my ear bearing resonances of Nina Simone and a distant edge of Sarah Vaughan – jazz and soul credentials intact but nevertheless her own woman. A unique talent - who married the great pianist Keith Tippet and left the pop world for the wilder and more remote shores of experimental/improvised music – where she still remains. 'All blues' is the Mile's tune with Oscar Brown Jr's lyrics - which are secondary to the vocal timbre and finesse with which she negotiates the track, accompanied by Auger on piano, displaying his mastery of the bluesier side of jazz out of Bobby Timmons or Les McCann, say - those rolling, gospelly licks. These two songs are actually more jazzy than some of the others on the album which combines jazz, blues, and folk even (great Godamighty! Donovan covers and more!) - and pulls it off without compromising any of the ingrediental musics.


All Bluesmp3

Light my firemp3


Go forward a couple of years and 'On the Corner' arrives – Miles trying to kill off the jazz critical establishment with a hearty dose of apoplexy. This album was universally hated by the jazz critical mafia and is a neglected masterpiece – as much for what it foreshadowed. I've chosen the daftest track – 'Mr Freedom X' which is a melange of what sounds like african percussion, indian tablas, electric bass, an electric sitar? - electric keyboards, and some randomish synthy-noise, slowly starting to build into a messy but infectious groove as the trap drums lock in. Add a few smears of Carlos Garnett's sax – whaddayagot? Jazz? Possibly not, Cyril... yet it comes from jazz even if it ends up in a sound world that prefigures trip-hop and other recent electronic boogies. It also sounds as if it was put together in the studio – Mile's and Teo Macero's african/jazz mixtrack and another heretical move. But when you figure that not long before this guy was still playing expanded bebop – you have to admire Miles' exquisite risk-taking – and his superior strategies in electronic ladyland – compared to the bland mess that fusion/jazz-rock was to become in the main (and that includes much of 'Weather Report' as well...).


Mister Freedom xmp3


The Elton Dean track is the most recent recording display here. A trio performance with Dean on electric keyboard and sax – shades of Graham Bond. Well, maybe not – this is much more jazzy – the most 'jazz' track out of all of these – and I can't quite see Elton Dean belting out 'Got my Mojo Working.' This is a dense sound with the electric organ underneath and the drums avoiding the more groove-orientated paths. Yet you can place it in the same lineage – coming out of both jazz and r and b – albeit the free-jazz side of things. And with a hefty reminder for me of the sprawling electronic improvised grooves that Miles initiated on 'Bitches Brew' and was to use as the seed-corn of 'On the Corner' among others – taken away and edited/spliced into new configurations. Here, this is a studio improvisation that doesn't sound overtly edited and has a cleaner sound despite the timbral thickness – only three instruments and the Fender Rhodes doesn't clash with the Hammond organ. But I can imagine this as a stripped-down echo of those Miles sessions with maybe a small homage to the sixties UK scene?

Good article about E Dean here...


New Roadsmp3


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Message from Whitedog...

The jazz posts are a little behind this week - but look forward to three forays into electricity. In the meantime, DJ Whitedog, the enigmatic house DJ at the Club Sporadic plays a mix of criss-crossing/hard bopping/genre crossing/blueslooping/ traxs for your edification and enjoyment (it says here...). Grab an experimental new mix - cantos 1 - here - this is a BIG file - 29 MB.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


This week I picked out two trios at random, one English, one American. The English trio (and duo) are much more collective affairs, surprisingly maybe, given Paul Dunmall's strengths as a soloist. Both trios have also dispensed with bass. Compare and contrast, as they say...

The English group, fetched up on the independent label that George Haslam runs: Slam, consists of Paul Dunmall, John Adams and Mark Sanders on tenor, electric guitar and drums respectively, who recorded the cd 'All Fried Up' in March 1998. I've given two tracks, a short one by the trio and a longer one by Dunmall and Adams without the drummer. There is the odd taste of Coltrane in the saxophonist's playing, which is probably unavoidable, coming out of the tradition and also playing in Alice Coltrane's band when he was resident in the US for three years – but Dunmall has his own firm stamp, has developed his style over the years to fit the diverse contexts he plays in and still remain his own man. (Alan Skidmore, say, would be your candidate for full-throttle Coltraneing in a Coltrane tribute band - a bit unfair, maybe... come to think of it, they played together in a two hard tenor group back in the eighties if I remember correctly...). Dunmall has honed his playing into an individual, free blowing style and can be heard in many different line-ups – he has also recorded a large amount of material most of which is still
available –
here's a good selection that demonstrates his musical fecundity...

He is also a player I have admired since he made his bones in a long tenure with 'Spirit Level' way back, right through to his later incarnations with the likes of Keith Tippett, the London Jazz Composers Orchestra - and not to forget the bagpipe explorations...

'Totally Fired Up' starts with Dunmall in frenetic, hard-squalling mode – a literal echo of the title? - underpinned by choppy chords from the guitar and Sanders' sure-footed drums – this is a democracy of horn, guitar and drums, equally sonically balanced, that ends abruptly on a couple of deep, blatted tenor notes.

The second track, a duo: 'Captured a Rapture'. They start slowly – Dunmall plays long notes low down and ruminative as Adams starts to build a framework eventually picking a faster lattice work of notes round him, progressing to swift chording alternating with single note runs – an abstraction of traditional 'comping.' Dunmall speeds up – yet Adams matches him as they build longer lines that cross and inflect, parallel and veer. Two instruments and no rhythm section – yet there are not many gaps – a very full sound world invoked here. Dunmall goes into the higher register as the track progresses and the lines combine and contrast to end almost abruptly again on a bunch of ascending chords.

The Americans: Jimmy Lyons leading his partner Karen Borca on oboe and drummer Paul Murphy on a track from the recent retrospective 5 cd set on the Ayler label.

Jimmy Lyons was known much more for his long tenure with Cecil Taylor than for being a leader – yet the release of the boxed set that this track comes from demonstrates many other facets of his work, outside the wild and wooly world of Cecil. "Jump Up" was recorded in Geneva in May 1984 with bassoonist Karen Borca and drummer Paul Murphy and could almost be an Ornette Coleman tune or a speeded up Albert Ayler number, briefly stated by the alto and bassoon before Lyons launches into a fast, fluid boppy solo over the busy drums- the long rat-tatting snare patterns of which remind me of Sunny Murray. One thing you notice very quickly is his ability to articulate accurately even very short note durations at speed. If he smears a note – it is intentional emotional colouring rather than a slip of the embouchure and fingers. This is Charlie Parker taken into the dimensions of 'free jazz' – some hint of what might have been if the Bird had lived? One wonders... Lyons came strongly out of Bird but by this time had long established himself as a master saxophonist, an underrated one due to his years with Taylor no doubt – yet Cecil had a great deal of respect for the man, regarding him as his 'right arm' during their long and fruitful association up to Lyons' tragic death in 1986. And Taylor's band must have a been a hard school to survive in – it is to Lyon's credit that he developed such successful saxophone strategies to play against the sheer density and speed of the pianist's sound world. These were in place early on... If you listen to the sessions recorded at the Cafe Monmartre the shadow of Bird is still very strong – but Lyons more than holds his own. Contrast Archie Shepp when he recorded with Taylor – he sounds uneasy and floundering.
Karen Borca complements the alto player well, plays a longer solo, long fluid lines, a deeper sound, coming close at times to resembling a baritone sax. The drummer plays back a bit behind her, in contrast to his busy work behind Lyons. The drum solo is interesting in that it continues the rhythmic feel of the track – long, fast almost smooth lines – a very linear approach compared to Taylor's music. Marsh is rolling long patterns on toms and snare that reflect the horns playing. This particular trio is also contrasted to the Dunmall et al track by its emphasis on solo work – almost a traditional conception of brief head, solos then reprise the head. Bop taken on further by different means? A conscious homage? I figure that Lyons's solos are not so different in his work outside Taylor's group from those he played with the pianist - give or take a few contextual re-adjustments - which says a lot about the metalanguage of the saxophone that he developed so successfully. And the speed of thought melded to ferocious technique necessary to be comfortable in both worlds. Lyons' work repays much study and the Ayler cd set is a belated tribute to an undersung master.

Two different trios, then, led by underrated musicians, one dead, the other still going and blowing strong. Check out the bagpipes sometime (I kid you not - brilliant!)

Paul Dunmall Trio:

download – all fried upmp3 -

download- capture a rapturemp3

Jimmy Lyons Trio
download - jump upmp3


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Club Sporadic - Saturday 22 October - Black Carrot...

The travails of a club curator... (hey, I love that phrase: club curator... rolls off the tongue...) Maybe this game is some kind of addiction – lying in bed at 5 pm Saturday afternoon when you have to be up and doing very soon and you just want to sleep because you had 4 hours the night before and you know that there is no way out: a club curator has to do the gig, whatever... Especially when you are performing as well, opening the show with one person whom you know well as a player – but the other you don't and you get that feeling: am I able to acquit myself well enough given exhaustion etc and this guy is supposed to be good and... in the event it's the old addiction kicking in: the club jones, the muso jones – the improv jones where you have nothing to fall back on if you play honestly – and the best part of the addiction is exactly that you have to play honestly and as fresh as possible to get the hit. And you need the hit – and you get the jolt – when you can sit back finally at 00.23 am which is relatively early for apres-gig back in your own sweet hovel with a can of Budweiser cold out of the fridge. Time to reflect on – well, what made the night so damn good? Apart from meeting and playing with a new musician – Michael – who had to rush off to Leeds but made a significant impression on me and those who heard him play with myself and David Teledu (whom God preserve!). I met and heard a new band to me: Black Carrot from Market Harborough – brothers in the game of provincial music making of the free and improvised and experimental variety. Second gig I've been at this week (third if you count my bizarre encounter with the Basford Variety Club which I still haven't written up – I need a quiet day dedicated to deciphering the records - scraps of paper, scribbles on beer mats - the usual - which has not turned up yet). And as good in a small east midlands club as the Jandek gig in the big city was: a tight, punchy band who play mainly improvised sets and songs. Black Carrot... You can guess by now that I liked them...

Plexus in its incarnation of myself and David Teledu plus guest Michael Canning opened the show and had decided to play as a unit rather than split up into various line-ups – due to time as much as anything else – and space: the Sporadic is a small club and there was a lot of equipment scattered around. We marshalled guitars, bass, synths, laptop and borrowed drums at the end to perform two pieces, one by David, the other by myself. Loose sketches, giving a basic tonality (C and G respectively) for each piece and suggestions on how to move through together. (I have received a cd recording of the set from David subsequently and played it back once – to me it sounds very good, but reviewing your own music is somewhat fraught with danger! I'll leave it at this – ) Michael Canning added some wonderful touches to our improvisation, at the end moving onto drums to give added rhythmic colour. David was prolific, switching instruments and colorations and I mainly thumped away at the lap top although I moved onto guitar at one point when the drums started as I felt the laptop could not respond quickly enough to what I wanted to add to the rhythms.

Black Carrot
are a three piece, drums, acoustic bass and keyboards doubling (trebling?) sax, bass recorder (I think) and electric guitar. They started with arco bass and electric keyboard – low sounds and high ringing clusters. The bass went into a pizzicato keening, singing section and the drummer edged in on cymbals – a jazzy 4/4 ching-ching-ker-ching type rhythm with bluesy keyboard. Then vocals added – a loose duet between the bass and keyboard player – words blurred and bent to be fairly incomprehensible (buy their cd – some of the same tracks are on it and you can find the lyrics written here as well!). A unique sound, I think - I have heard them compared to Morphine but personally don't hear it... the acoustic bass gives them a jazzier feel, for a start and Morphine are a bit one-dimensional whereas Black C have several strings to their various bows. They play long stretched-out numbers (like us) which gives plenty of space for improvising. I am a fan of long songs live or otherwise as I'm always curious on what journey I'm going to be taken on – this was a very interesting ride and one that I would like to experience again...

Further numbers brought in sax – punchy, free-jazzish, using what sounded like pedal effects at times to double the line – and the (probable) bass recorder and electric guitar - I had to go and get a drink (well, it had been a long day for little me...)so missed some of this last but came back to hear e-bowed guitar – long, sad singing notes which added another dimension to their varied sound world. A crisp and sharp unit, dedicated to the virtues of improvisation and also incredibly nice people. Hard actually to categorise them easily – which is to the good. This is music that has the rigour of improvisation done well but also is accessible via the jazzy rhythms (at times they reminded me of a New York-style band like Defunct or James Chance and the Contortions, maybe, from the punk jazz/loft side of the no-wave days).

There are things stirring out in the provincial undergrowth beyond the capital city... Loughborough... Market Harborough... tomorrow the world...

You can buy their cd: 'Cluk' – here -