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Jazz for Modernists 13 – Kenny Dorham: 6 of the Best

Jazz for Modernists 13 – Kenny Dorham: 6 of the Best

Texas-born trumpeter, composer and singer McKinley ‘Kenny’ Dorham (1924-1972) played an important role in the development of modern jazz trumpet. Recording as early as 1945 with Mercer Ellington and Frank Humphries, he appeared on some early bebop big-band sessions led by Dizzy Gillespie and sustained a career as leader and side player throughout the 1953-1965 period of hard bop. After work with Fats Navarro, Lionel Hampton, James Moody, Charlie Parker, Milt Jackson and Thelonious Monk, his first full date as the leader came in October 1953 and was released for Debut as The Kenny Dorham Quintet (vols. 1 & 2). The following year he was a founding member of (at the time) Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers, a combo soon to be led by fellow co-founder and drummer Art Blakey. Dorham’s own Jazz Prophets followed in 1956, a line-up of which featuring pianist Bobby Timmons recorded his second album for Blue Note, ’Round About Midnight at the Café Bohemia (1957).

Dorham has constantly been regarded as a ‘players’ player’ or ‘underrated’, perhaps due to his never being consistently associated with one major label for any great length of time. Although commercial success eluded him, the pantheon of great names of distinct styles that either played for him or invited him to key sessions is a testament to his qualities of consistency and adaptability. Returning to Blue Note in 1961, he struck up something of a partnership with tenor great Joe Henderson, appearing on three of his Blue Note LPs: Page One (1963), Our Thing (1963) and In ‘N Out (1964). Henderson appeared in turn on Dorham’s Blue Note dates Una Mas (1963) and Trompeta Toccata (1964), while both horn men featured brilliantly on Chicago pianist Andrew Hill’s masterpiece Point of Departure (1964).

From 1965 until his premature death in 1972, Dorham recorded only sporadically, though he did still feature on some excellent LPs including the 1967 debut by pianist and fellow Texan Cedar Walton. Overall, his legacy is a very positive one, often hailed for the quality of original compositions such as ‘Blue Bossa’ (recorded by Joe Henderson), the modal ‘Sunset’ from Whistle Stop (1961) and the twice-recorded ‘Una Mas’. In terms of style, Dorham has been praised in The Penguin Guide to Jazz for his ‘elusive brilliance’ and described as ‘fluid, punchy and lyrical’. Of his Blue Note sides, only ‘Mamacita’ (see no. 5) was issued as a 45 single, though a few EPS on other labels were distributed globally. DJs looking for tracks for the dancefloor or the ‘lounge’ party soundtrack might need to rely on albums. In truth, Dorham was never really an out and out soul-jazz player, though the list below does it’s best to appeal to mods who like to ‘step out’ as well as sit back with a cool beer and watch the network DVD box set of Public Eye.

1. ‘Afrodisia’ (1955) – From Afro-Cuban 10″ Vinyl, Blue Note BLP 5065 & LP, BLP 1535 (1957)


Dorham’s first two lead sessions for Blue Note in January and March 1955 were with expanded versions of the first Messengers line-up featuring Horace Silver on piano, Art Blakey on drums and Hank Mobley on tenor sax. From the second session came ‘Afrodisia’, an infectious piece of Latin hard bop with Carlos ‘Patato’ Valdes on congas and Cecil Payne on baritone sax.

youtube.com/watch?v=7myLXPUBB_w


2. ‘Lotus Blossom’ (1959) – From Quiet Kenny LP New Jazz NJLP 8225


What Billboard (Feb 22, 1960) called ‘the relaxed, warm sounds’ of Dorham’s late ’59 Quiet Kenny LP for Prestige’s New Jazz offshoot owed more than a little to the modal sounds of Miles Davis’ recently released Kind of Blue and the directions in which John Coltrane was taking the hard bop template. Bassist Paul Chambers had appeared on Davis’ seminal album, while pianist Tommy Flanagan and drummer Arnette Cobb in the same year played on Coltrane’s Giant Steps, the first clear exemplum of the iconic saxophonist’s ‘sheets of sound’ experiments. Dorham’s quartet for this date was thus the cutting edge of post-bop improvisation. The modal feel is evident on the exotically-titled ‘Lotus Blossom’, which leads off an outstanding set of laid-back modern jazz.

youtube.com/watch?v=-TwoXLZo6-c


3. ‘Buffalo’ (1961) – From Whistle Stop LP Blue Note BST 84063


Whistle Stop, the third of Dorham’s five dates as leader for Blue Note, is required listening for connoisseurs of the particular period of hard bop (c.1959-1963) that followed Miles’ and Coltrane’s modal experiments and preceded the r & b-driven, finger-snapping funk of Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder. Perhaps the most interesting track from a historical point of view is the bluesy and Indian-inspired ‘Buffalo’, a swinging example of what Ira Gitler’s original sleeve notes describe as ‘southwestern funk as opposed to the usual southern funk we hear’. Mistakenly attributed to Horace Silver, a short version of this tune cropped up on the debut release in early 1963 of visionary acoustic guitarist Davy Graham (The Guitar Player). Taken up by John Renbourn, the tune for guitar was an early blueprint for the fusions of jazz and folk that would lead to the formation of Pentangle in 1967.

youtube.com/watch?v=uQoslZNVjzs


4. ‘Sao Paulo’ (1964 – recorded 1963) – From Una Mas Blue Note BLP 4127


Enter Joe Henderson (and Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Butch Warren). Recorded in April 1963, Una Mas (Spanish for ‘One more (time)’) is a record inspired by the Brazilian bossa nova sounds so popular in the United States in 1962. The title track, here extended to over 15 minutes, had appeared a year earlier as ‘US’ on the live Inta Somethin LP for Pacific Jazz. Infectious though this is, it’s the shorter ‘Sau Paulo’, described by Dorham in the sleeve notes as ‘half bossa feeling and the other half is something else’, which best epitomises the ‘light and shade’ feel of Blue Note’s 1960s Latin-tinged modal blues.

youtube.com/watch?v=lN1iQQS5E_A


5. ‘Mamacita’ (1965 – recorded 1964) 45 (parts 1 & 2): – Blue Note 1922; 33 – From Trompeta Toccata Blue Note LP BST 84181


This catchy Joe Henderson tune kicks off side two of Dorham’s last date as leader (Henderson would record a slightly faster version on his 1967 set The Kicker). The last of the five Henderson-Dorham Blue Notes to be recorded (in September 1964), Trompeta Toccata reunites Dorham with Tommy Flanagan and also features legendary drummer Albert Heath and the great Richard Davis on bass. Mid-sixties jazz modernists are urged to acquire this album also for its urgent Afro-Latin title track (with outstanding Henderson solo) and the nocturnal swing of the excellent ‘Night Watch’.

youtube.com/watch?v=0dGFeIcGb_4


6. ‘Turquoise Twice’ (1967) – From Cedar Walton: Cedar! LP (Prestige PR7519)


Dallas-born pianist and composer Cedar Walton had made his recording debut in 1958 on Dorham’s Riverside LP This is the Moment! After a stint with Art Farmer and Benny Golson’s Jazztet, he was part of Art Blakey’s most interesting Messenger’s line-up from 1961 to 1964, playing alongside Wayne Shorter and Freddie Hubbard and contributing bona fide classics such as ‘Ugetsu’ and ‘Mosaic’ to the repertoire. By the mid-sixties Dalton was appearing on numerous Prestige sessions; his first for the label as the leader featured Kenny Dorham, who, though fading from the scene, delivered a searing solo on the majestically lyrical modal blues ‘Turquoise Twice’. Dorham continued to record sporadically (dates with Barry, Harris, Clifford Jordan, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Cecil Payne) until his premature death from kidney disease in 1972. His legacy is a fine one.

youtube.com/watch?v=nFKeU-qKRiA


 


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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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September 7, 2017 By : Category : Articles Bands Front Page ModJazz Music Picks Reviews Tags:, , , ,
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Jazz for Modernists 12 Grant Green 6 of the best

In the pantheon of guitar greats, Grant Green (1935-1979) stands tall. Troubled with health problems and yet hugely prolific throughout the 1960s, his fluid, bluesy and bebop-inspired guitar licks can be found on over 50 recordings for Blue Note during that decade (as leader and sideman). A melodic player of crisp, crystalline linear runs, inspired as much by saxophonist Charlie Parker as guitar hero Charlie Christian, Green’s first recordings were with tenor sax player and fellow St. Louis native Jimmy Forrest for the United label.

Around 1959/60, after being ‘discovered’ by Blue Note stalwart and alto sax man Lou Donaldson (with whom he toured briefly), Green moved to New York where he was introduced to Blue Note’s Alfred Lion. Hugely impressed, Lion started recording him as leader on a glut of sessions (some unreleased until the late 70s) and sideman for Baby Face Willette, Hank Mobley, Stanley Turrentine, Don Wilkerson, Lou Donaldson, Jimmy Smith and Ike Quebec. Though initially fitting perfectly into the soul-jazz organ trio, gospel and Latin formats, Green’s early experience of playing with Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones would in time see him participating in some of Blue Note’s more adventurous recordings by the likes of Herbie Hancock (My Point of View), Bobby Hutcherson (The Kicker), Lee Morgan (Search for the New Land) and Larry Young (Into Somethin’).

Green’s initial period of success at Blue Note ran from 1961-1965. This was followed by a brief flirtation with the Verve label, a period of enforced absence and a return in 1969 for a series of funky but rather patchy LPs later championed by the acid jazz movement. In terms of overall legacy, mention must be made of four or five outstanding LPs he recorded for Blue Note as leader: Grant’s First Stand (1961), Idle Moments (1963/5), Talkin’ About! (1964/5), Street of Dreams (1964/7) and Matador (1964/79). Ranging from soul-jazz through to modal grooves, these are all essential additions to the collections of the thoughtful mod about town (or in her or his rural retreat). However, for those interested either in the dance floor or creating a party atmosphere, here are six tracks culled from the Green back catalogue that were released as singles (edited versions of album tracks). Some, if not all, will be familiar to long-standing participants in the mod and jazz dance scenes.


1. ‘Miss Ann’s Tempo’ (1961) 45 – Blue Note 1811; 33 – From Grant’s First Stand BST 84064
WATCH & LISTEN HERE

From Green’s second Blue Note session (first to be released), ‘Miss Ann’s Tempo’ was also his debut single for the label, coupled with his version of Porter Grainger’s blues standard ‘Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I do’. A trio date, with Ben Dixon on drums and Baby Face Willette on organ, the vibe is similar to Brother Jack Mcduff’s The Honeydripper session for Prestige recorded just a week later and also featuring Dixon and Green. Intriguingly, a track by Eric Dolphy, ‘Miss Ann’, had been recorded with Booker Little the previous October. There’s plenty of righteous call-and-response jousting here between Green’s limpid melodies and Willette’s chugging chords and gospel-drenched soloing. One for the expert jazz dancers!


2. ‘Mambo Inn’ (1963) 45 – Blue Note 1870; 33 – From The Latin Bit BST 84111
WATCH & LISTEN HERE

Throughout 1961 and 1962, Green featured on around 25 Blue Note recordings and a handful for Prestige and one or two other labels. Collectors of Blue Note 45s will therefore hear his playing on singles of the period by other artists. Such mid-tempo dance floor tunes include Lou Donaldson’s ‘Watusi Jump’, Dodo Greene’s ‘You are my Sunshine’ and Don Wilkerson’s ‘Camp Meetin’. Two 1962 sessions also led, the following year, to the release of The Latin Bit, from which the Mario Bauzá-Edgar Sampson-Bobby Woodlen tune ‘Mambo Inn’ was culled for the jukebox. An uplifting blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms and bluesy bop, this tune features Willie Bobo and Carlos Valdes on percussion and John Acea on piano.


3. The Cantaloupe Woman (1965) 45 – Verve VK 10361; 33 – From His Majesty King Funk Verve V/V6-8627
WATCH & LISTEN HERE

Likely to be heard at many a New Untouchables night, ‘The Cantaloupe Woman’ comes from Green’s only session as leader for the Verve label, 1965’s His Majesty King Funk. While this swings like an upbeat Lee Morgan tune of the era, a new modal undercurrent is present, provided by the Hammond playing of Larry Young, for whom Green had supplied guitar on his debut Blue Note LP Into Somethin! (1964). On that session, Green was reunited with Elvin Jones and sparred alongside the more avant-garde saxophone playing of Sam Rivers. Change was in the air.


4. Big John Patton: Amanda (1966) 45 – Blue Note 1926; 33 – From Got a Good thing Goin’ BST 84229
WATCH & LISTEN HERE

Between 1963 and 1966, Green appeared on six Blue Note LPs led by Hammond man Big John Patton. The last in the sequence, Got a Good Thing Goin’ yielded the 45 ‘Amanda’, a cooking cover of the Duke Pearson tune that kicked off his 1964 date Wahoo! Although his initial role is to vamp a rhythm, Green lets loose a cracking solo half-way through the album version. One of those addictive melodies that it’s good to know exist in edited format for the club night and in longer versions for domestic pursuits. At over nine minutes, the Pearson version (without Green) is especially wonderful as a soundtrack to preparing vegetables.


5. Ain’t it Funky Now (1970) 45 – Blue Note 1960; 33 – From Green is Beautiful BST 84342
WATCH & LISTEN HERE

On July 1, 1966, Grant Green played on Stanley Turrentine’s Rough ‘n’ Tumble, a date including the wonderful singles: ‘And Satisfy’ (Blue Note 1929) and ‘Feeling Good’ (Blue Note 1933). Apart from a solitary 1967 date later released on Cobblestone as Iron City (1972), he would then be absent until early 1969. By this time, rock, boogaloo and funky soul were entering new dialogues with jazz; the period from 1969-1972 would see Green return as a key figure in the groove-based styles later defined as acid jazz. Much of 1969 was seen recording with Prestige artists such as Rusty Bryant, Charles Kynard and Don Patterson and Reuben Wilson’s enjoyable Blue Note date Love Bug. By October, he was leading his own sessions, one of which, 1970’s Green is Beautiful, gave us the monumental groove ‘Ain’t it Funky Now’, released as a Parts 1 & 2 single. Idris Muhammad’s marvellous drumming helps make this take on James Brown a memorable one.


6. Sookie Sookie (1970) 45 (edit): – Blue Note 1965; 33 – From ‘Alive!’ BST 84360
WATCH & LISTEN HERE

From the subsequent Blue Note LP, recorded live in August 1970 at the Cliche Lounge in Newark (New Jersey as opposed to Nottinghamshire), Don Covay and Steve Cropper’s 1965 ‘B’ side is given a full funk workout. Green, organist Ronnie Foster, and tenor sax player Claude Bartee improvise righteously over a solid groove laid down by Idris Muhammad, Joseph Armstrong on congas, vibes player Willie Bivens and Foster on organ bass pedals. Some of the material Green worked on with Blue Note after 1969 was not as strong as this, but overall he could be proud of the legacy he left for the label from 1960 to 1972. We’ll be looking at more legends of the label in the future. Until then, enjoy these tunes.



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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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June 30, 2017 By : Category : Bands Front Page ModJazz Music Picks Tags:, , , ,
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Jazz for Modernists 11 Blue Note 45s

The iconic status of Blue Note’s catalogue of LPs from the 1950s and 60s in the field of funky and soulful modern jazz is, of course, a testament to the high quality of its recording artists, the general excellence of the music and the production values instilled by owners Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff and perfected by audio engineer Rudy Van Gelder (RIP). However, it would be fair to state that the cover art, designed for the most part by Reid Miles, and with informative sleeve notes by the cream of contemporary jazz critics, together form an integral part of both the listening experience and the overall modernist package. Of those who own the vinyl, especially, who can disassociate the music of, say, John Coltrane’s Blue Train from its cover, or Dexter Gordon’s Our Man in Paris?

One consequence of this is that this most revered of labels tends to be valued for its 33 rpm products almost exclusively, something perhaps a little unusual for the world of mod music collectors. So it may come as a surprise to some (it was to me) to find out that, in addition to the 400+ LPs recorded on Blue Note between 1955 and 1972, the same period also saw something in the region of 350 7” 45 rpm singles released by the label. A handful of rare export copies came in picture sleeves, but on the whole we’re talking blue and blue and white label in paper bag territory.

The first thing to say is that virtually all the singles were sides already cut for an LP. Certainly this holds true for the ‘A’ sides, though a notable exception is the 1958 vocal version of Horace Silver’s ‘Señor Blues’ (see number two in list). The ‘A’ sides are overwhelmingly the ‘catchiest’ track on the LP, and in some cases, such as Horace Silver’s Tokyo Blues LP (1962), as many as three tracks were released on separate singles (as parts 1 & 2), such were the commercial possibilities of that finger-snapping record. Some tracks recorded in the studio for an album were edited in length for the singles or divided across both sides as ‘Parts 1 & 2’. Whether always the same take is something I haven’t yet been able to ascertain.

In future articles, we will look in more depth into the Blue Note singles catalogue (even acknowledging some of the 78s that were released from 1939 to 1955). This will involve examining the social context for their releases and their audience and reception compared with the albums. For now, though, here is an introductory selection of 10 major releases, many of which have been played over the years on the mod scene.

 


sonny_rollins

01. Sonny Rollins, ‘Decision (pts 1 & 2)’ (1957) – Blue Note-45-1669

After nine LPs for Prestige, New York-born tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins recorded four for Blue Note between December 1956 and November ’57. Four singles were culled from these sessions, including this marvellous mid-tempo slice of soulful hard-bop taken from the 1957 LP now known as Sonny Rollins, Vol. 1 (BLP-1542). A stellar line-up featuring future Miles Davis pianist Wynton Kelly, drummer Max Roach, bassist Gene Ramey and trumpeter Donald Byrd trace out over 8 minutes the transition from bebop to soul jazz.

WATCH & LISTEN HERE


02. Horace Silver Quintet (with Bill Henderson), ‘Señor Blues’ (1958) –Blue Note-45-1710

Horace Silver initially recorded this Latin-tinged tune as an instrumental in late 1956 for the 6 Pieces of Silver LP (BLP1539) and a shorter, alternate take was duly released as a single coupled with ‘Cool Eyes’ from the same session. Then, in 1958, a new lyric version, with a different line-up (though Donald Byrd remained) was recorded with Chicago-born actor and vocalist Bill Henderson. Apparently one of the labels best-selling 45s, ‘Señor Blues’ turned up on the excellent 1993 compilation Blue ‘n’ Groovy. Henderson, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 90, also recorded two singles with Jimmy Smith in 1958.

WATCH & LISTEN HERE


03. Herbie Hancock, ‘Watermelon Man’/ ‘Three Bags Full’ (1962) – Blue Note 45-1862

Covered by John Hendricks, Mongo Santamaría and Manfred Mann, among others, Chicago-born pianist and composer Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ is now a jazz standard both in this, its original form, and the electro-funk version he made over ten years later for the 1973 Head Hunters LP. Some see this track, taken from debut LP Takin’ Off as the first blueprint of one of the label’s key signatures of the next five or six years: the inclusion on an LP of at least one exotically-titled funky, latin-tinged soul-jazz number which, in edited form at least, could get dance floors moving. Featuring Dexter Gordon on tenor sax, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and, with Hancock, a rhythm section comprising Billy Higgins (drums) and Butch Warren (bass), ‘Watermelon Man’ was written with commercial success in mind and evokes from Hancock’s childhood the cry of a Chicago street vendor and the rhythmic beat of his wagon wheels.

WATCH & LISTEN HERE


04. Jimmy Smith, ‘Can Heat’/’Matilda Matilda’ (1963) – Blue Note 45-1905

Taken from his penultimate Blue Note LP, Rockin’ the Boat (BLP4141), featuring Lou Donaldson on alto sax, ‘Can Heat’ is just one of over 40 singles released by Jimmy Smith on the Blue Note label between 1955 and 1972. This one, a nice slice of mid-tempo r & b/soul jazz, is classic mid-60s Smith, one for getting the dance floor bubbling as opposed to an out-and-out mover. A lovely tune, though, for relaxing to with a glass of cool beer or camomile tea for more adventurous souls.

WATCH & LISTEN HERE


05. Stanley Turrentine, ‘River’s Invitation’ (pts 1 & 2) (1965) – Blue Note 45-1917

Another stalwart of Blue Note’s soulful side, Pittsburgh tenor man Stanley Turrentine (1934-2000) had already recorded with R & B heavyweights Lowell Fulsom and Earl Bostic before teaming up with Max Roach in 1959. In 1960, he married organist Shirley Scott, going on to record with her for Prestige and Impulse! ‘River’s Invitation’, a sparkling orchestral version of Percy Mayfield’s gospel-drenched blues, is taken from Joyride (BST84201) and features Herbie Hancock and guitarist Kenny Burrell.

WATCH & LISTEN HERE


06. Lee Morgan, ‘The Rumproller’ (pts 1 & 2) (1965) – Blue Note-45-1918

Readers of our recent top 10 soul-jazz LPs will know that trumpeter Lee Morgan’s ‘The Sidewinder’ (both as single and LP) was a massive success for Blue Note in 1964. ‘The Rumproller’, released in late 65/early 66, was the follow-up single and LP (though in the meantime Morgan had recorded the excellent Search for the New Land). A funky blues in the ‘Sidewinder’ fashion, this track was written by pianist Andrew Hill, one of Blue Note’s more experimental artists whose LPs for the label are highly recommended.

WATCH & LISTEN HERE


08. Lee Morgan, ‘Cornbread’ (pts 1 & 2) (1965) – Blue Note-45-1930
Recorded at the end of the funky summer of 1965, the Cornbread LP (BST84222) reached the Billboard top 10 when it was finally released in early ’67. Featuring the great ballad ‘Ceora’, the record holds a special place in this writer’s heart as the first Blue Note LP he bought as a teenager. The title track, another infectious bit of bluesy funk, was released as a single.

WATCH & LISTEN HERE



09. Duke Pearson, ‘Sweet Honey Bee’/’Ready Rudy?’ (1967) Blue Note-45-1931
The next single in the catalogue after ‘Cornbread’, ‘Sweet Honey Bee’, by in-house Blue Note pianist and composer Duke Pearson was taken from a late ’66 LP of the same name. At this time, Blue Note was often pairing its funky players with modal modernists and here Miles Davis bassist Ron Carter provides a more spacious and contemplative feel to the rhythm section. Flautist James Spalding, though, dominates with the melody that structures this bouncy mid-tempo track.

WATCH & LISTEN HERE


10. Lou Donaldson, ‘Alligator Boogaloo’/’Rev Moses’ (1967) Blue Note-45-1934

Coming on like a slower-tempo ‘Hot Barbecue’ (Jack McDuff), with Lonnie Smith at the organ, this Lou Donaldson swinging groove remains a bona fide mod jazz favourite. Though the album version weighs in at over six minutes, the single, as can be seen from the picture, is an edited version of less than 3 minutes and thus ideal for the discotheque. However, many mods will want to find the (original) vinyl LP for the iconic cover of Peggy Moffitt wearing a psychedelic Rudi Gernreich gown.

WATCH & LISTEN HERE


11. Bobby Hutcherson, ‘Ummh’ (pts 1 & 2) (1970) Blue Note – 1966
And so into 1970! This list is completed with a brief homage to the late great vibes player Bobby Hutcherson (1941-2016). LA-born Hutcherson was a regular featured artist at Blue Note and played on key dates such as Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch (1964). His own series of dates for the label, including Dialogue (1965), Components (1966) and Happenings (1967) are among the most thoughtful and atmospheric in the entire catalogue. By the time of San Francisco (1970), he had moved from the fringes of the avant-garde into the realm of jazz fusion and funk. Taken from this album, Ummh (pts 1 & 2) features Jazz Crusader Joe Sample on electric piano, John Williams on fender bass, drummer Mickey Roker and tenor sax player Harold Land (he that inspired the title of a song by Yes). It is one relentless gargantuan groove which hopefully Bobby above is still playing along to.

WATCH & LISTEN HERE


Postscript
In 1998, Dean Rudland compiled a selection of Blue Note 45s under the title ‘Blue 45s-the ultimate jukebox’. I don’t have a copy of this, but it might still be available and will no doubt have more useful information.


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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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December 6, 2016 By : Category : Bands Front Page ModJazz Music Picks Tags:, , ,
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Jazz for Modernists 10 – Ten Classic Soul-Jazz LPs, 1958-1967

Jazz for Modernists 10 – Ten Classic Soul-Jazz LPs, 1958-1967

Ok folks, after veering off into free improvisation and progressive rock, it’s time to steer our jazz ship back to the (perhaps) less stormy, but equally exciting, waters of soul. Sometime in the mid-1950s, partly in direct contrast to ‘cool’ or ‘West Coast’ jazz, boppers on the East Coast and in Detroit and Philadelphia began to infuse their modern jazz with healthy new doses of rhythm and blues, swing, Latin and gospel. The subsequent sound, as practised by groups such as Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, the Horace Silver Quintet and the various combos of Clifford Brown, Cannonball Adderley and Sonny Rollins, became known as
hard bop.

Before long, much of this music was being described as ‘funky’ and ‘soulful’, terms denoting the down-home earthiness of the blues and the call-and-response spiritual union of black gospel music. As early as 1953, Silver had recorded ‘Opus de Funk’ and Blakey the drum piece ‘Nothing but the Soul’ for the 10” Blue Note LP Horace Silver Trio Vol. 2 and Art Blakey-Sabu (Blue Note 5034). The gospel influence was clearer on Silver’s ‘The Preacher’, originally released in 1955 on the 10” Horace Silver Quintet, Vol. 2 (BLP 5062), a collection also featuring a track entitled ‘Hippy’.

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Horace Silver Trio Vol. 2 and Art Blakey-Sabu, 1953 (Blue Note 5034).

Anyway, as the 50s rolled on, ‘soul’ became an increasingly important ingredient in the hard bop vocabulary, often identified in track titles. Examples from 1957 include Cannonball Adderley’s ‘Another kind of Soul’, Milt Jackson’s ‘Plenty Plenty Soul’ and Horace Silver’s ‘Soulville’ (also the title of a track and LP by Ben Webster). Though ‘soul-jazz’ wasn’t really a distinct, recognized genre before 1959, the fusion of r & b and gospel vocal music perfected around this time by Ray Charles (what in future would be called soul) was seeping into the jazz idiom. This was virtually inevitable the great man was an accomplished jazz pianist and arranger (taught by the equally great Quincy Jones back in 1948 in Seattle) and Atlantic, his label, had been recording the Modern Jazz Quartet since early ’56.

What follows is a selection of ten LPs, one each from years 1958-1967, which forms a short introduction to soul-jazz. It’s not a ‘best of’, but something charting the development and variety of the genre during its glory years. Of course soul-jazz continued to evolve after 1967, but that’s another story.

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1. Ray Charles & Milt Jackson, Soul Brothers (Atlantic), 1958 (1957)

The first of two 1957-8 collaborations between MJQ vibes man Milt ‘Bags’ Jackson and Ray Charles (the other, Soul Meeting, was held back until 1961), this is an important stage in the evolution of soul-jazz. Though a trained bopper, Jackson was a member of the Modern Jazz Quartet, at the time synonymous with the rather formal chamber jazz style. That Atlantic should pair him with their gospel-drenched blues genius Ray Charles was recognition that cool jazz could swing and a clear indication that future soul-jazz would benefit from the metronomic structure of cool rhythm sections (MJQ drummer Connie Kay is on both dates). Another important feature is the guitar, played by Skeeter Best on Soul Brothers and Kenny Burrell on Soul Meeting. The title track is by Quincy Jones, life-long friend of Charles and a huge influence on later orchestral settings for soul-jazz. WATCH VIDEO

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2. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Moanin’ (Blue Note), 1959 (1958)

An essential album for any serious jazz modernist. Featuring 20-year-old Lee Morgan (trumpet), Benny Golson (tenor sax), Jymie Merritt (bass) and Bobby Timmons (piano), drummer-leader Art Blakey provides the backbone for an excellent and varied session of hard bop. Known today as ‘Moanin’’, after the Timmons-penned opening track, the album was released as Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Leonard Feather’s notes describe the opening chorus of ‘Moanin’’ as “the quintessence of funk, based on the classic call-and-response pattern, with Bobby’s simple phrases (focused on the tonic) answered by the horns and rhythm punctuations on straight, churchy pairs of chords (B Flat and F)”. Quite so, and, heard once, it remains lodged in the brain along with images of New York skyscrapers and men in pork-pie hats. Shorter vocal versions were recorded soon after by Bill Henderson and Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. WATCH VIDEO

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3. The Cannonball Adderley Quintet, Them Dirty Blues (Riverside), 1960

With pianist Bobby Timmons providing the link with Blakey’s Moanin’, this might well be the first bona-fide classic soul-jazz LP (though much hype surrounded the previous Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Francisco). Leader and alto sax player Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley had recently excelled on Miles Davis’s timeless modal classic Kind of Blue, but his forte was definitely funky hard bop and soul-jazz. Them Dirty Blues contains three absolute classics of the soul-jazz genre: Timmons’s ‘Dat Dere’, a version of Duke Pearson’s ‘Jeannine’ and cornet player Nat Adderley’s ‘Work Song’. Mod dancers will be familiar with Oscar Brown Jr’s vocal versions of all three. WATCH VIDEO

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4. Jack McDuff, The Honeydripper (Prestige), 1961

Used in American churches since its invention in 1935 and then in pop, swing and rhythm & blues (Ethel Smith, Fats Waller, Count Basie, Wild Bill Davis, Bill Doggett), the Hammond organ, most notably the B-3, would soon become a fundamental instrument in soul-jazz. Jimmy Smith started his incredible run of Blue Note LPs in 1956 with A New Sound… A New Star and readers may be surprised not to see Back at the Chicken Shack in the list. Well, though the best of the Blue Notes are great, personally I prefer the big band sound of his Verve debut Bashin’ (see 5) and The Cat (1964). So, 1961’s soul-jazz organ spot goes to Jack McDuff’s The Honeydripper, the Illinois man’s third LP for Prestige. From the opening blast of ‘Whap!’, McDuff’s quartet (with tenor sax legend Jimmy Forrest, drummer Ben Dixon and the great Grant Green on guitar) never falters. WATCH VIDEO

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5. Jimmy Smith, Bashin’: The Unpredictable Jimmy Smith (Verve), 1962

Smith’s first date for Verve was with a stellar big band led by Oliver Nelson, whose recording for Impulse, The Blues and the Abstract Truth (1961) will be familiar to fans of Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard and Bill Evans. The arrangements of standards ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ (Bernstein & David), ‘Ol’ Man River’ and Ellington’s ‘In a Mellow Tone’ are so tight and clean that, when it arrives, the Hammond screams out at the listener. The title track, an original played just as a trio, is, in contrast, fairly gentle for a bashin’, while Nelson’s ‘Step Right Up’ echoes the jaunty Copeland feel of ‘Hoe-Down’ from the Abstract Truth LP. A fine record. WATCH VIDEO

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6. Lee Morgan, The Sidewinder (Blue Note), 1964 (1963)

A comeback date for the young Morgan, The Sidewinder’s title track set the bar high for finger-snapping soul-jazz/funky hard bop in both its musical execution and commercial success (the album and a parts 1&2 single of the title track made the Billboard top 100). An LP format of sorts thus evolved around 1964-8, whereby a swinging blues would be followed by two or three hard bop blowouts, a ballad and maybe something modal (though the greatest Blue Note dates of the period transcended this pattern). Echoing the bodily movements implied by The Sidewinder, examples of the mid-sixties Blue Note house style include Morgan’s The Rumproller (1965), Hank Mobley’s The Turnaround! (1965) and Horace Silver’s wonderful The Jody Grind (1966). Shorter versions of The Sidewinder by Woody Herman (with vocal), Soulful Strings, Quincy Jones and Kai Winding are popular on the dance floor. WATCH VIDEO

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7. Horace Silver, Song for My Father (Blue Note), 1965 [1964]

As already stated, pianist Silver was at the ground zero of soul-jazz. His Cape Verdean heritage drove him on to exploring folk tunes and Latin, African and other rhythms which he combined expertly in the funky stew. By 1964, his style had absorbed some of the modal touches of players like Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner, making his 1960s recordings for Blue Note amongst the most atmospheric and exotic in the hard bop and soul-jazz cannons. Recorded with different line-ups over two dates in ’63 and ’64, Song for My Father is the crown jewel in a golden run of albums Silver recorded for the label. Check out this 1968 live version of the title track here: WATCH VIDEO

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8. Jazz Crusaders, Chile con Soul (Pacific Jazz), 1965

The very epitome of Latin-inspired 60s funk, the Jazz Crusaders deserve a place in any top ten of soul-jazz. Throughout the decade, the combination of Joe Sample (piano), Wilton Felder (tenor sax), Hubert Laws (flute), Wayne Henderson (trombone), Stix Hooper (drums), Al McKibbon (bass) and others produced an incredible sequence of smooth and swinging albums for the Pacific Jazz label, including the classic 1965 ‘Chile con soul’. Highlights include opening salvo ‘Aguadulce’, a second version of ‘Tough Talk’, ‘Tacos’ and ‘Dulzura’. Warning – once heard, this music is addictive. WATCH VIDEO

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9. The George Benson Quartet, It’s Uptown (Columbia), 1966

A wonderful LP by a master guitarist, sounding as fresh today as it must have done 50 years ago. Taking his inspirations from Gershwin standards, Marvin Gaye, boleros, bossas and more, George Benson produces a record as varied and virtuosic as anything in the soul-jazz guitar canon. Though stylistically different, it shares the adventurous spirit of Davy Graham’s Folk, Blues and Beyond. For sheer excitement, opener ‘Clockwise’ and closing number ‘Mynah Bird Blues’ are hard to beat. The contributions of organist Lonnie Smith are particularly effective throughout. Dancers will want to check out ‘Summertime’, ‘Ain’t that Peculiar’ and ‘Jaguar’ (where Benson gets his guitar to sound like a flute!) WATCH VIDEO

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10. The Soulful Strings, Groovin’ With the Soulful Strings (Cadet), 1967

Although Blue Note would divide some of their funkier extended tracks into parts 1&2 singles (if anyone’s got a nice 7” copy of Horace Silver’s ‘The Jody Grind’ please write in), it was not really responsible for the mid-sixties shift towards shorter, bite-sized chunks of soul-jazz aimed either at the dance floor or the singles charts. Arguably that was Chess subsidiary Cadet (earlier Argo), which, from 1965 to the 1970s, released a slew of singles and albums usually comprising shorter tunes, many influenced by, or cover versions of, contemporary pop, bossa nova and r & b songs. Amid some admittedly patchy albums between 1965 and 1967, one that definitely stands out from the pack is Groovin’ with the Soulful Strings. Mixing the cream of the Chess house band (including guitarist Phil Upchurch) with violas, violins and cellos, group leader Richard Evans takes us on a strange, at times psychedelic journey from Bach to the Beatles, via Miles Davis. The single ‘Burning Spear’, an Evans original featuring a kalimba (an African traditional instrument known also as the mbira), is big on numerous dance floors, a flute-driven precursor to Johnny Harris’ ‘Stepping Stones’. WATCH VIDEO


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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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September 27, 2016 By : Category : Articles Front Page Music Picks Tags:, , , , , , ,
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Jazz for Modernists 8 – Interview with Julie Tippetts and Keith Tippett (Part 2)

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series James Thomas on Jazz

Here is part 2 of JTM’s interview with Julie Tippetts and Keith Tippett.

09: The period 1967-1972 was generally one of great dialogue between jazz, blues, folk, improvisational forms and rock music. On a personal level, did you experience this as a process of mutual discovery, each of you learning about the other’s musical backgrounds?

KEITH: As in our lives where we have grown together, also in the music. And may I take this opportunity to state that Centipede and the composition Septober Energy (1971) encompasses all these genres. Performing live with an orchestra including Jazz musicians/Soul and progressive rock musicians/improvising musicians and classical musicians had never been done before or since.

Centipede, Septober Energy (1971)

10: In April, 1971, Julie, you recorded Quartet Sequence, with The Spontaneous Music Ensemble. How did this come about and what was it like to step into this new area of improvisational singing?

JULIE: Our shared manager at the time, Giorgio Gomelsky, was also recording people like John Stevens and John McLaughlin, so I had the opportunity to listen to and try out all sorts of diverse musical areas of creation. Joining The Spontaneous Music Ensemble with John Stevens, Trevor Watts and Ron Herman was part of a natural progression moving into a freer approach to playing. As was (Ovary Lodge (with Keith, Frank Perry and Harry Miller), and collaborations with [previous SME member] Maggie Nicols. She and I set up our friendship and teamwork in Centipede. We did lots of improvising together in preparation for the concerts. We have always had an incredible rapport.

Spontaneuous Music Ensemble, Frameworks 

11: Much of this music is considered ‘improvisational’ or ‘experimental’. Is improvisation primarily a response to another musician’s performance or is it aiming to represent something tangible (a landscape, an idea, an emotion etc)?

KEITH: It is definitely not experimental. Composition is frozen improvisation. The ability to solidify on paper the idea you have created in sound. This is just the start. Likewise with the technology available today, what starts as an improvisation in a Dartington concert can be heard on a beach in Bali on cd 5 months later. All composers are improvisers.

12: Julie, you have periodically returned to more ‘conventional’ song forms throughout your career, working again with Brian Auger on Encore (1978), Fire in the Mountain (1989) with Working Week and quite recently, Sessions (2008) with Nostalgia 77 (with Keith). How would you describe the main differences in approach to structured song and improvisational singing?

JULIE: I love music… My privilege has been, being open enough to be part of many genres. I feel comfortable in composed or spontaneous music.

13: In 1975, you recorded Sunset Glow, a recording that in parts evokes for me works like Tim Buckley’s Starsailor (1970), Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom (1974) and Linda Perhac’s Parallelograms (1970). For those who love your 1960s work, could this LP be the gateway into your more experimental work, perhaps the one they could relate to most?

JULIE: I don’t think so really. For me personally, I can’t possibly make that statement. I have loved every limb of the body of work I have produced or been part of producing. It’s all part of the same journey. How people conceive it, or accept it, is part of their journey.

Julie Tippetts, Sunset Glow (1975)

14: Keith, during the 1980s and 1990s, you actively promoted the Rare Music Club in Bristol, an arena for experimental and collaborative music, based in part around your group Mujician. What were the major successes of that and did the experience make you optimistic about future music in Britain?

KEITH: The Rare Music club put on a programme of improvised music/jazz/20th century/contemporary western classical music/ and folk music from various countries. At least 3 different musics per night. Wonderful idea. I thought it would be commercial. I was wrong. Mujician was the house band and we were subsidizing guest artists. There was no profit whatsoever. Even with a hard-working committee raising small amounts of money, we could only sustain the club by the musicians’ good will. We had some headline, internationally known artists, and prosperous Bristol (a University city) did not have interest enough – particularly local musicians and students. The future of non-commercial music is in more danger now in the UK than it has ever been (with the exception of contemporary western classical music, which the establishment funds)… Thank God for Europe… ps…I worked more in Tokyo last year than my home town Bristol!!

Mujician (Paul Dunmall, Keith Tippett, the late Tony Levin, Paul Rodgers)

15: Keith, teaching has been important to you and you include many younger musicians in your improvising groups and write scores for younger musicians to perform. When you perform, you always seem to be interested in how they respond to your musical cues and suggestions…..

KEITH: Younger musicians are the future of course… musical cues and suggestions are of course discussed and rehearsed. I also am still working with many of the older comrades who were first-generation creators of improvised music.

16: Are you hopeful about the future of jazz and improvisational music?

KEITH: I am hopeful to an extent. However Europe (East and West) is where the work place is. The audiences also seem to be more knowledgeable.


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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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September 29, 2016 By : Category : Bands Front Page Interviews ModJazz Music UK Tags:, , , ,
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Jazz for Modernists 8 – Interview with Julie Tippetts and Keith Tippett (Part 1)

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series James Thomas on Jazz

Julie Tippetts and Keith Tippett have been at the forefront of improvisational British music and composition for over 45 years. Considered “one of the foremost vocalists in the field of European contemporary jazz and improvised music”, our readers will, of course, be familiar with Julie’s wonderful, soulful singing in the 1960s with Brian Auger and Steampacket. Since 1969, she has worked with Keith and many others in the fields of free jazz, poetry, improvisational music and, occasionally, soul and r ‘n’ b. Keith has led various ensembles such as Centipede, Ark, Tapestry and Mujician and collaborated with dozens of musicians across the fields of contemporary jazz, rock, improvisational and classical music since 1967. His brilliant piano playing can be heard on recordings made with, among many others, Louis Moholo, Stan Tracey, Howard Riley, John Tilbury, King Crimson, Robert Wyatt, and Shelagh Mcdonald. Julie and Keith kindly agreed to talk to Jazz for Modernists about their long musical partnership, thoughts on music-making and plans for the near future.

01: What projects are you both currently working on, separately and together?

KEITH: Plans for another CIS (Couple in Spirit) album. Masterclasses and solo performances in Australia this year. Incidentally, a new solo album has just been released, Mujician Solo IV Live in Piacenza (Dark Companion Records, 2015). Working with Pino Minafra’s Minafric at festivals in Italy…working at the Ravenna Festival as a duo and future work with the Archipelago Orchestra in Europe.

JULIE: Keith and I are planning a new “Couple in Spirit” CD. We’re performing in Italy with the duo and Pino Minafra’s Orchestra. Martin Archer and I are preparing CD number 5 and have put an ensemble together which has been invited to perform in Canada in May.

02: A couple of years ago, Julie read her poetry at the Vortex in Dalston, London, to improvised accompaniment from Keith. How do you both conceptualise the relationship between poetic sound/meaning and the piano and other instruments?

KEITH: There is a big difference between the spontaneous composition of CIS (with or without Julie’s poems) and my accompanying of Julie’s poems. In the latter, the words are the primary focus. The poems that Julie decides to use/or not with Couple in Spirit are part of the whole sound world. Actually, we have only ever done one poetry/music concert. Perhaps as it was so well-received, we should do more.

JULIE: As long as I can remember, I have written thoughts down in the form of poems or lyrics, whether fabricated imaginings or drawn from true-life experiences. Several years ago I compiled an anthology of selected poems which I began to take on stage to recite, sing or half-sing during improvisation performances. Total improvisation is completely unprepared and ‘plucked from the air’ with no preconceived structure or landmarks. A selection of my poems is treated in the same way as my various small percussion instruments. They are there to draw from, either partially or in completion, or not referred to at all. Sometimes I have a table prepared on stage and never use anything, but they are there if I hear a place for them. Many of my poems, or parts of them, seem to work well with other instruments, and Keith is a master at colouring and creating atmosphere, so there can be many such inclusions in our duet performances.

03: Poetry enjoys a long association with jazz. In Britain, for example, Michael Horowitz, Pete Brown & the New Departures crowd in the 1960s, Michael Garrick’s collaborations with Norma Winstone and John Smith and, of course, Stan Tracey’s Under Milk Wood suite, based on Dylan Thomas. Other than Julie’s work, Keith, have you ever set a poetic work to music or been inspired by a particular poem?

KEITH: The short answer is no. However, sometimes I put the music to the words (eg “Sun-the Living Son” (from Mary Wiegold’s Songbook), the last song of From Granite to Wind etc.). But more often than not, the words are sculpted to the music (for example, “The Monk watches the Eagle”, “Film Blues”, “A Song”).

04: Julie, how long have you been writing poetry? What and who are your poetic inspirations and what are your aims when writing?

JULIE: As with music, my love of poetry covers many types and styles of writing. Reading a wonderful poem can trigger off your own thought forms in streams of imaginings. Likewise, certain states of mind or moving situations or observations can start the unstoppable flow. When writing poetic forms to music, it is the music which tends to dictate what to write. It’s unexplainable really.

albums_comp

05: Can you tell me a little bit about how you both met and started making music together in the late 1960s?

KEITH: Julie came to a gig at the 100 Club, Oxford Street. She was managed by the late Georgio Gomelsky who had just signed myself and the Sextet. I, of course, was well aware of who she was, and a few days later was excited to be asked to play and write some arrangements on her 1st solo album 1969. A fantastic album, with some fantastic musicians performing on it.

JULIE: We had the same manager for a while, and he introduced us. He played me some of Keith’s recordings, and I remember thinking…”I’ve been waiting to hear music like this, without even realising it”. I was preparing pieces for the 1969 album, and it became obvious that Keith would be ideal to do some arrangements for it. Luckily, he agreed, and it became our first collaboration. I loved, and still love the outcome. That album was my first solo in my own right. The musicianship was fantastic, and I can’t really fault it to this day. It holds so many memories and opened so many musical doors.

06: Keith, you were born and raised in Bristol. What was your introduction to jazz and did the city have many modern jazz clubs or venues when you lived there?

KEITH: My introduction to jazz of any sort was Kenny Ball and his version of the Russian folk tune known to the record buyers as “Midnight in Moscow”. All the music I had heard up to that point (1962) had been western classical music and church choral music. I was studying piano, had been a chorister, was playing with the Bristol Youth Brass Band and was to go on and study the organ. However, this was pre- television (in our house) and it was the radio that delivered this wonderful music to me. I formed a ‘trad’ band with friends at school and performed traditional jazz at weddings/care homes/1 radio broadcast (BBC Bristol)/cabaret at weekends (at Talk of the Town nightclub) chaperoned by the banjo player’s dad. We were not allowed to attend pubs or jazz clubs as we were too young.

07: Julie, you came to improvisational music and freer jazz singing styles after a career as a successful rhythm and blues singer with Steampacket and Brian Auger’s Trinity. During that period, did you listen to or see much free jazz in London, perhaps Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler?

JULIE: I was working constantly with Brian Auger for 4 years and seldom had the chance to hear other performers unless they were on the same bill as us. I remember there was a festival with Pharoah Saunders playing, which enticed us to try our set beginning with an unprepared “free” improvisation. Not sure how it worked at the time, but it was a taster of what was to be later developed on my own musical journey. As a band, we all took our favourite types of music on the road with us, and jazz was always one of the choices. My dad, being a trumpeter and band leader, who I sang with when I was 16, introduced me to many different musical forms, including jazz, Latin American and also Caribbean calypso. My mum loved Nellie Lutcher, Louis Jordan, Frank Sinatra etc, so my musical hunger was well fed from a variety of recipes. My own particular passions were Ray Charles, Tamla Motown, Oscar Brown Jr, Nina Simone and the Blues greats like Howling Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee etc, and lots of African music and Flamenco guitar.

08: Keith, your first two LPs as leader of the Keith Tippett Group were you are here…I am there, recorded in 1969 and Dedicated to You, But You Weren’t Listening, from a year or so later. Both feature the brass triumvirate of Elton Dean (alto/saxello), Marc Charig (cornet) and Nick Evans (trombone). Were these records the summation of ideas going back to 1967?

KEITH: They were not the complete spectrum of the various music we were involved in during this period. But it would be true to say that at that moment Dedicated to you was typical of what the sextet was playing at that time.” You are here was released so late after the actual recording (a problem between Giorgio and Polydor) that we were not playing that material anymore and as young musicians, we were maturing rapidly. Also, we were working with many other musicians and ensembles.

PLEASE VISIT THE WEBSITE HERE!

PART 2 coming soon…

 


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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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July 9, 2016 By : Category : Bands Front Page Interviews ModJazz Music UK Tags:, , , , ,
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Interview with Mark ‘Bax’ Baxter about documentary Tubby Hayes: A Man in a Hurry (Part 1)

Jazz for Modernists 6 & 7 

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On a cold January afternoon in Soho, Jazz for Modernists had the pleasure of meeting Mark ‘Bax’ Baxter, author, stylist and producer of Mono Media’s groundbreaking Tubby Hayes, A Man In A Hurry (2015), a 50-minute documentary dedicated to the great, much-missed British jazz multi-instrumentalist Edward ‘Tubby’ Hayes (1935-1973). It’s a great film, already the subject of an excellent review in NutsMag by Graham Lentz HERE! Bax has been a fan of Tubby for over 30 years, embarking around 2011 on his four-year project to make a film paying tribute to a man he describes as “the face of modern jazz in the UK” in the late 50s and early 60s. Primarily a tenor saxophonist, but also an outstanding vibes player, Tubby, alongside Ronnie Scott part of the seminal Jazz Couriers from 1957 to 1959, appeared on over 60 LPs in a career that lasted until his untimely death in 1973, a sad consequence of a life lived ‘in a hurry’, but also to excess. His playing can be heard on such British 60s cinema classics as Alfie and The Italian Job, while he appeared in person in less-well-known cult films such as All Night Long (1962) and Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965). Beyond jazz and film, he arranged and led the brass section on Family’s Music in a Doll’s House (1968) before the saxophone became a regular ingredient in early progressive and jazz-rock line-ups. Bax, who is also co-author with Paulo Hewitt of The A to Z of Mod (Prestel, 2012), explains in detail the genesis of his film and its subsequent success.

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01: So, how did this project come about?

MARK BAXTER – Initially through the mod scene, mod revival…My family have always been interested in clothing and bespoke-made suits. The mod thing fitted in with that. When Paul Weller formed The Style Council, I stayed with it…through some of his interviews he’d mention Blue Note jazz…He was quite a big influence on me finding other aspects of music and things. Someone said (early 80s) “try Ray’s Jazz Shop in Shaftesbury Avenue” and I just started going to the shop and picking up all the classic American jazz…Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Chet Baker. One of the guys in the shop asked me if I knew the British angle on all this and I said “not really, I’m just trying to learn my way”. He said I should listen to the Jazz Couriers, a modern jazz outfit (’57-’59)…they’ve got a really good player called Tubby Hayes. I didn’t know that name at all – no Google or Internet back then. Ronnie Scott I knew, because of the club. I became a member of the club when I was 23, just to soak up a bit of the history, find out who was playing there and learn from that. I went to see Miles Davis at the Royal Festival Hall when he was wearing sort of what I’d call clown’s clothing, big flowy silk stuff, doing cover versions of Cyndi Lauper. It was completely wrong for me at the time, but he was still Miles Davis. One day I picked up a Jazz Couriers album. I really liked the late 50s sound and started looking for more stuff on Tubby which was quite hard to find. The vinyl was very rare and expensive, but you could pick up other Jazz Couriers reissues on vinyl and a couple of Tubby solo efforts. Then a compilation come out by a DJ called Paul Murphy who used to run nights at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, jazz-dance nights. I went down there a few times. He put out a compilation called Jazz Club 2… there’s a Tubby Hayes track called ‘A Pint of Bitter’ which he recorded in New York in 1961 – VIDEO. That song stayed with me, so I just carried on my journey of interest in music and fashion. As well as a 9 to 5 office job, I worked on market stalls, had a clothes shops, so was always doing various things, but always interested in jazz and music in general. Then, around 2002, I started to write, I wanted to give it a go and get some books published. I did do that in 2003/4 and one of the first interviewers asked me what my interests were. I said “Millwall Football Club, red wine and Tubby Hayes”. I used to throw that in to get a conversation going, cos most people said “Tubby Who?” That was the general starting point. About ten years ago, I said “I will write a book about Tubby Hayes”. At first, I couldn’t find anything about him. This was early 80s, no Google, no Internet. So that was really quite a tough subject.

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Jazz Club 2 (1985) featuring Tubby Hayes’ ‘A Pint of Bitter’

02: Back in the 80s, did you find any old copies of Melody Maker or Jazz Journal that had interviews with him?

MB: A couple of bits ‘n’ pieces. Back then, my general interest was 60s culture. It wasn’t specifically about Tubby or jazz in general. I was buying Rave magazines with stuff like Small Faces and The Who. I was into that general mod thing really…

03: In the mid-80s, then, was the mod scene in London moving towards a jazz direction as opposed to soul and r & b?

MB: Yeah. My main interests have always been clothes and music. Obviously, I went to a few club nights. When things started going more acid-jazzy, late 80s, Gilles Peterson, bands like Galliano, some of that woke me up because the look was quite moddy, Duffer of St. George, that clothing thing, but the music was more the stuff that I’d been listening too. The mod revival and stuff that purported to be ‘modern mod’ didn’t interest me at all. I was always going back… listening to the old bands, the originals and soul music and jazz were part of that really.

04: Around this time (early 90s), I learned a lot from the compilations by Dean Rudland…

MB: Yeah, that was always the entry point, the compilations. I was buying a lot of records, but mainly all the famous albums of Small Faces, Who, Action etc. Because jazz was so vast a subject, it was quite daunting. So compilations, I would start there, collect those and then you would pick the one or two acts or performers from those compilations and investigate further. That’s where Tubby came into it.

05: Some mods are clued up on soul jazz and Latin jazz. Would you agree, though, that some of the best 50s/60s modern jazz is still considered almost alien territory because it’s primarily music for listening to or watching rather than dancing?

MB: Yeah. I’d go to Dingwalls or Electric Ballroom and hear danceable jazz, but the stuff I was listening to at home was purely for listening to, like classic Miles Davis or Coltrane. You’d be in trouble trying to dance to some of that, I think. It was a real broad church but I kept coming back to Tubby Hayes for some reason. I’m not quite sure why.

06: You grew up in south London. Tubby Hayes grew up in south-west London. Was this a factor in your interest?

MB: Up until about 3 or 4 years ago, I didn’t know much about his personal life. Every now and then, I would need to find out something and with the Internet bits of information were coming through. But I didn’t know he was married or what he died of, or where he lived. I knew he was a London guy but I didn’t know where. I started googling his name quite a lot and I thought “there’s a book in this”. I kept seeing this guy called Simon Spillett, who’d been writing this book on Tubby Hayes for ten years (The Long Shadow of The Little Giant – The Life, Work and Legacy of Tubby Hayes (Equinox Publishing 2015). I emailed him one day, probably four years ago, and asked him if he was going to do this book because, if not, I’m a writer and I want to do it. He said he was nearly there, that he’d spent two years writing the book, eight years trying to find a publisher. I said “if you want to write a book, I want to make a film”. He gave me all his research notes which is very rare in this little tiny industry we’re in. No one really gives away anything, not like that!

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Simon Spillet’s authoritative volume on Tubby Hayes (2015)

07: That’s a pretty kind gesture!

MB: Yeah, that was really encouraging. I took it l on holiday with me to Italy and spent a week just reading all this stuff, which filled in all the blanks about Tubby. That he was married twice and had two kids, obviously a massive drug habit which I didn’t know much about really – that he lived in Raynes Park (South West London) as a kid, then here, there and everywhere. I still didn’t have a lot of his records at the time. The music side was “I like what I like” but I never really went mad on investigating it. Simon told me there were 60 albums out there and I thought I was never gonna get there, what with working full-time, trying to keep the wolf from the door. My first idea for the film was, having been through the publishing process, trying to get a commission. I couldn’t find anyone to back it though, so it became quickly evident that I’d have to do it myself and find the money myself.

08: Did that take a long time?

MB: Well, first of all, I saved up about three grand, thinking “well that’s a start”. Then I had to find someone who was a cameraman, editor, director, sound recordist all in one really, as I knew I couldn’t afford a crew. I do PR, short-term contracts, long-term contracts, and one job was for a band called Stone Foundation, a Midlands soul band. I went on a video shoot one day and the guy making the video was a self-contained one-man band called Lee Cogswell…[he was] very quiet, getting on with his work. I had a look through his viewfinder on his camera and the quality was great. It was really nicely framed. As luck would have it, Lee was looking to make a film. He knew nothing about jazz, but he was a musician, played drums and piano. So the music angle interested him. This was probably in 2012/13… I was aiming for a 2015 release, cos that would have been Tubby’s 80th birthday.

09: And you reached it…

MB: Yeah, just about made it. All the way through 2012-14, it was touch and go. We would find maybe two grand and then spend it quickly on expenses and bits of equipment and travelling around the country, interviewing these various people. My role of producer meant that I had to find a location; I had to get Lee down from the Midlands to film, and I had to pay for all that personally. So, it was just trying to find money all the time, really. We got the funds together and most of it was just getting Lee to film people, then obviously we needed some archive. So that was another process, getting involved with the BBC who own most of the archive.

10: What’s that archive like? The BBC is well-known for having deleted great footage from the 1960s.

MB: I had 8 or 9 hours of footage to go through including one-hour specials featuring him on one or two tracks. Ella Fitzgerald Live at the BBC from 1964/5 – a couple of solo spots where he’d stand up and play. So, in that 45-minute clip, there’d only be 5 minutes or so focussing on him, but he’d be in the line-up. We had to literally go through all these programmes trying to find the classic bits featuring Tubby. 9 hours sounds a lot, but there’s probably about an hour and a half of Tubby. But the fact that it still survives is incredible. There were one or two late 50s TV shows, then as the Sixties rolls on they are better quality and more Tubby-focussed. Jazz Goes to College, 45-minute sets with the big band, fantastic – so maybe two hours altogether. Also, Jazz 625, classic Tubby big band, which has been shown once there’s a load of clips of that on YouTube.


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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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May 4, 2016 By : Category : Bands Front Page Interviews Music Tags:, , ,
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Interview with Mark ‘Bax’ Baxter about documentary Tubby Hayes: A Man in a Hurry (Part 2)

Jazz for Modernists 6 & 7

11: How did you go about promotion and distribution?

MB: I got so entrenched with making the film, I didn’t think about showing it to anybody. We set ourselves that target (Spring 2015)…we were well short – we didn’t have enough footage, or enough money to finish it. We had to finance it ourselves. An archivist who was helping me find the footage from the BBC said to me one day, “you need a distributor, someone to put this out for you”. I thought that was a really good shout, I hadn’t really thought of that. I found a company called Proper Records, a reasonably sized independent record label, putting out lots of stuff by Nick Lowe and Van Morrison, I think. They had a jazz department and the guy I spoke to used to work for Mole Jazz in the 80s, who were like Ray’s, a destination shop for jazz buyers. He’d put out a couple of Tubby Hayes reissue compilations, one being Mexican Green (1967 LP), which he put out through his own Mole Jazz label. So, it was a done deal. Once I told him about Tubby Hayes, he said “we’ll have that!”. So we knew we could get it out into the shops, Amazon was taken care of, Waterstones etc. He also mentioned Foyles, which was where Ray’s Jazz shop is now.

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All Night Long (1962), featuring Patrick McGoohan, Charles Mingus and Tubby Hayes

12: The first showing was at Foyles in London [19 November 2015]. Tell us about that.

MB: That was amazing. I just walked in one day and said we were making a film about Tubby Hayes. Can we do a little bit of filming in Ray’s? People going through the racks – cut-away stuff. The guys there were great, really supportive. They said they had an auditorium upstairs and asked if I wanted to launch it up there. It was a 200-seater, fantastic space, so I thought “why not?” The [idea of the] film started in Ray’s, it’s gone back to Ray’s thirty years later. It was the London Jazz festival that week, around October. It all just came together, pure fluke. We were just desperately trying to get it out by a certain time. By getting those guys on board – Proper, Foyles and the London Jazz Festival, it suddenly became very serious. All of a sudden we had deadlines and fairly big-hitting companies looking to speak to us and put our product out.

13: Has the film done well?

MB: Yeah, it’s sold well, we had 2 000 DVDs made and pretty much sold them out within ten weeks. We were delighted with that. From those first sales we earned money to get some more made for Christmas. We’re into our second run. It’s worked.

14: Any evidence that sales of Tubby’s music have increased as a result of the DVD?

MB: I can’t say for certain, but the awareness of his name and his work has gone up. Through my social media, I get a lot of feedback, people saying they’ve never heard of this guy, but like the sound of him, the era, the music, the films he worked on (eg. The Italian Job, Alfie). A lot of 60s enthusiasts that I know personally would go and check out a film, or YouTube, or Spotify and then they may end up with a CD or a bit of vinyl, and then end up with the DVD. It had been quiet for a long time on the Tubby front but now there are a lot more reissues going on.

15: [question from April 2016]: What were the subsequent showings at Regent’s Street Cinema like, in February and just recently in April?

MB: Our screening at the Regent Street cinema in Feb 2016 was a sell out, which was very encouraging for us all and proved that word of the doc. had got round to the right people. A good mixture Mod and 60s enthusiasts as well as film buffs turned up in the 180-strong crowd.
We had Simon Spillett and his new quartet play live and after the doc, myself, Simon and director Lee Cogswell took part in a Q & A session. Then DJs took over in the bar with a fine selection of jazz-inspired tracks.
The night was such a success that the cinema immediately asked us back and in April we repeated it all again. This time we had an older, more jazz-based crowd, which pleased me. We had new people to tap into!
We also screened at Ronnie Scott’s in March, which was a real mark of approval from the UK jazz world. For the rest of 2016, we have other screenings already booked for Gateshead, Southend, Chichester, Brecon and back in London in the coming months.

16: If you had to recommend one Tubby Hayes LP, which would it be?

MB: The one album that everyone should get is Mexican Green, which he made in 66/67. It’s going the Coltrane style, more than the fast, ‘crash-bang-wallop’ sound of Tubby when he was in full flow in the early sixties. There are certain tracks with three or four different styles within one track. It’s not an easy listen, you’ve got to work at it, but that’s the education of it all. That’s the last album he made of any real note, he made a contractual album after that called The Orchestra (1970), an album of cover versions (‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’, ‘Hey Jude’ etc). But Mexican Green is the one I’d definitely go for. From the earlier period, Tubbs (1961), Tubbs’ Tours (1964) and Tubbs in NY (1961) are all valid.

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The classic Mexican Green LP (1967)

17: Of all the British sax players of the time, he was perhaps the most well-known in America…

MB: Yeah, definitely. There’d been a musicians’ ban on UK guys going over there. Then it was reciprocal. If Miles Davis played two weeks here, we had to send someone to the States. They didn’t want anybody. There was no one of any note that they wanted. When Tubby popped up, they said “he can do it”. He went to New York in 1961 at the Half Note Club. Miles Davis was in the audience on the first night. Tubby was the one guy who could go out and hold his own in that company. He played two weeks there, mixed with the musicians, recorded and became part of the scene for a little while. A lot of the guys we spoke to said he should have stayed there, committed to two or three years in the States. Personally, I think he liked being the big fish in a small pond. Over here, he’d get plenty of work, plenty of press, TV appearances. He was the only one anyone had heard of.

18: One UK-based artist who did go to America before Tubby was Dizzy Reece. Did Tubby play with him?

MB: They played on a Blue Note LP recorded over here [Blues in Trinity, 1959], with a version of ‘Round Midnight’ on it.
19: By the mid-sixties, of course, we were getting great jazz musicians, but in return were sending over the likes of Herman’s Hermits….
MB: Yeah. Once the beat boom started coming in, jazz clubs would become a beat club, or they’d book more acts like that. That’s what the kids were demanding. Jazz suddenly became quite old overnight. The work dried up quite quickly, or the club gigs dried up. The recordings weren’t selling massive numbers. The Stones and The Beatles were selling in big numbers. The trade papers stopped writing about them [jazz musicians], maybe a little bit of a mention. But really, the front cover would be given to the Beatles, Stones, Small Faces, Who, Otis and soul music. This is why he stared to play on jingles and films, looking for other work.

19: And this would lead Tubby to other work?

MB: Yeah, he’d be hired for a session. He wouldn’t know a lot about the band. His studio or agent would get him a bit of work. He would turn up and pretty much be able to play anything. But the timing was all wrong for him, because he wasn’t very well. He was in and out of hospital for months on end. He was probably offered work, but couldn’t make the gigs for one reason or another. His health wasn’t great [around 70/71] and there’s a school of thought that maybe he was still dabbling a little bit [heroin], and he had a heart valve operation in 1970, and then again in 1972. In 1973, he couldn’t play – he was physically incapable of playing.

20: Finally, would you consider making a feature film about Tubby Hayes starring James Corden in the title role?

MB: Simon (Spillett) has said that he’s aware of Tubby Hayes. The similarity has been pointed out to him. Whether that will ever go anywhere I don’t know? James Corden would be perfect. The only problem is Tubby lost about five stone, six stone, around the 60s when the drugs kicked in and I think Mr. Corden might struggle to lose the weight.


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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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May 4, 2016 By : Category : Bands Film Front Page Interviews Music Tags:, , ,
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Jazz for Modernists 5 – Interview with drummer Guy Evans (Part 2)

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series James Thomas on Jazz

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last time around, JFM at NUTs reached the half-way point in our interview with acclaimed drummer Guy Evans, long-time member of Van der Graaf Generator. We pick up the story in 1967, as psychedelia made its mark in Coventry and Guy was about to expand further his musical horizons.

Lead image: Guy Evans, 2011 (source: Wikipedia)

15: Around 1967 you were part of a psychedelic trio called Green Marble Mind…

GE: That was great, I really enjoyed that band. It just went along with swapping the mod gear for the paisley shirts and the long hair and all that. It was a power trio, we wanted to be The Jimi Hendrix Experience really and there was a very good guitar player who was not actually from Warwick University, he was from Oxford. I think he sort of knew someone who was there and he turned up one day and could play all this Hendrix stuff, it sounded brilliant; and there was a very good bass player, so we just started playing.

[A 1968 mention of Green Marble Mind in Warwick University Magazine, Campus, has surfaced: www.contentdm.warwick.ac.uk].

16: You mentioned the Incredible String Band. Did folk come into your musical progression?

GE: Well, we had The Incredible String Band at Warwick a lot. I thought they were pretty extraordinary actually. They could be a bit impossible sometimes, but I’d never heard anyone making music like that really before. [With folk], it came down to the guitarists really for me: Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Davy Graham, who of course was something else because of all that Indian and Arab stuff that he used to incorporate into his playing. I loved that adventure. I didn’t get so much into the English folk movement, at the time, I somehow felt it was a bit anal, which is probably a bit superficial of me, but at the time I wasn’t terribly attracted to it.

17: You joined Van der Graaf Generator in summer ’68. Someone who independently had a big influence on the other members of that band was Arthur Brown. Was he one of the main figures in the move from jazzy r & b to progressive music?

GE: Yeah, I can see that… while he did this extraordinary stuff with the flaming hat and all that, he completely had the chops. He had an extraordinary voice, a great, great performer, Arthur. The band was tremendous, with Drachen Theaker and Vincent Crane. Here was a band that could absolutely cut it with all the r & b on every level, from instrumentalist, drummer, singer, doing this wild psychedelic stuff that happened to have a huge number one hit as well.

18: Just before joining VDGG, around June ’68, you helped organize a music festival at Warwick University. The line-up sounds incredible, including Family, Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath, Cornelius Cardew and the Scratch Orchestra and Ravi Shankar.

GE: We just decided ‘let’s just do something, let’s just have a really big splash here, because this moment is never going to come again’. We’d had these very nice connections with London musicians and agents, who regarded Warwick and Coventry Art College as a sort of consortium of venues to be reckoned with. It was quite well-known…[With Chris McGregor], it was the whole band. It was Dudu Pukwana [alto sax], Louis Moholo playing drums, Mongezi Feza playing trumpet, and it was fantastic. It was wonderful. And to me, it was one of the gigs that kind of brought jazz right back into my bones.

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Chris McGregor Group, Very Urgent (1968). South African pianist and his band played in Coventry, summer 1968.

19: Well, it sounds fantastic, because also Family at that time, Jim King was on sax, this festival must have been one of the earliest sort of fusion gigs….

GE: Oh, I think it was, it was.

20: Van der Graaf around this time [autumn’ 68-May ’69] was a pretty full-time affair. Did you get a chance to see much live jazz in London?

GE: Oh absolutely, this was an incredible time to see jazz if you were a Central London musician where everything happened around Wardour Street and Dean Street. What happened that was incredibly fortunate was that the first Brit Invasion had happened and was happening (The Beatles, Stones, Animals and The Who and all that sort of thing) and because of union regulations all of these acts had to have acts of equivalent status coming to Britain on an exchange. I don’t know who worked the miracle but I think Ronnie Scott had a lot to do with it… in exchange, we got Roland Kirk, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Archie Shepp….you were spoilt for choice…and because Strat [Tony Stratton-Smith] knew Ronnie Scott, we used to get either very discounted or free admission… every musician in town was down at these gigs…they were thinking it was just like Christmas
every day.

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Van der Graaf Generator, c. 1968/69 (l to r: Hugh Banton, Keith Ellis, Guy Evans, Peter Hammill; (photo credit: Deborah Ellis/Phil Smart)

21: VDGG played at some solid jazz venues like Klook’s Kleek in West Hampstead. Was it easy to see how different styles of music were influencing different bands?

GE: Yeah, you didn’t think about it too much because what was actually happening was a real melting pot and I think quite a lot of it was coming from the jazz musicians as well. Jazz wasn’t nearly as snooty or exclusive a world as people make out sometimes. I think there were two reasons really. One was the spirit of jazz allowing, even embracing, the whole idea of different forms, different ways of playing music, different types of musicians, incorporating different styles etc and overall cherishing improvisations, and, secondly, a kind of opportunistic thing which was that they kind of wanted to get in on the act. A lot of jazz musicians were either in soul/r & b bands as well or were best mates with people who were in horn sections. And yes, it was great to go around being in the Bluesbreakers and occasionally maybe getting a bit more money than you might get for a night at Ronnie Scott’s …but actually ‘wouldn’t it be great if you were out there coining it in the same way that The Who were’…so I think there was a certain amount of motivation to embrace electric music and rock styles and things from a commercial point of view.

22: What about those crucial Miles Davis records for the fusion of jazz and British rock: In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew…

GE: They were wonderful. In a Silent Way and the small group electric Miles stuff exist in a planet of their own. I remember being very excited by Bitches Brew but also thinking that I wish I could have produced it. It was still suffering a bit from ‘jazzer’ recording techniques, though again looking back, it sounds pretty good.

23: So, from the jazz world, would you have been seeing people like Evan Parker and Keith Tippett?

GE: I never saw Evan Parker. I would like to have, but I just wasn’t aware of him…Keith Tippett, yes, absolutely. Keith Tippett was pretty hip; he was a mate of Robert Wyatt and, of course, Julie Driscoll, who was a chart-topping and supremely hip person. So, you’d go and see Centipede playing somewhere, that kind of thing. And I think there were some quite remarkable crossover/elisions of pop culture and jazz thinking at the time. I think one of the most remarkable albums to come out from then is Extrapolation [John McLaughlin LP, 1969]…because here you have an album that is produced by Georgio Gomelsky, who managed the Rolling Stones, set up the Crawdaddy Club, produced the Yardbirds, produced Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll and then John Mclaughlin does his first solo album (before Mahavishnu and all of that stuff) and I think it was Georgio Gomelsky’s influence really that actually dictated the line-up in that band which was John Surman, Brian Ogers on bass, and, completely left-field, Tony Oxley, the great British free jazz drummer who was considered very far out at the time, who I loved, but was certainly not one of the powerhouse drummers that you might have brought into that situation. The obvious one to have brought into that would have been Ginger Baker, or possibly Mitch Mitchell or John Marshall, even, but that idea of that band was genius, I thought; I don’t quite know who was responsible, but certainly Georgio Gomelsky was very creative in his influence
on things.

24: Talking about Mitch Mitchell, VDGG supported Jimi Hendrix at the Albert Hall [February, ‘69]. Any memories of that night?

GE: Yeah, it was just great, it was lovely. We were very nervous about it. I remember having very little notice of it…we weren’t bad, because we’d actually been doing quite a few gigs, and we were quite well-oiled, we actually went and did a pretty good set, I think.

25: In summer ’69, you met [future VDGG bassist] Nic Potter, playing together in a later line-up of The Misunderstood on two singles and the ‘Golden Glass’ sessions. How did that come about?

GE: Because I wanted to. That was it. VDGG had broken up. I was kicking about in London, feeling pretty frustrated and not really wanting to join in the gang of sort of dissolute, out-of-work musicians hanging around Le Chasse and the Marquee bar. My partner at the time, who was Strat’s secretary, said ‘what band would you like to join?’ (cos I didn’t actually like much of what was around at the time.) It was either The Misunderstood or Captain Beefheart…that was my thing. These were two things that John Peel had been playing, so I’d heard them on his recommendation and so, about three days later, she came back and said ‘right, you’ve got an audition with The Misunderstood. They were in town. I mean the whole thing had happened with their work permits and visas all screwing up. It was in fact two members of The Misunderstood trying to put together a band…Glen Campbell and Steve Hoard. And I went down and the person running the auditions was Chris Mercer, sax player with John Mayall. I was feeling a bit
‘right, okay!’

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The Misunderstood, later line-up, 1969 (Guy Evans, top-right)

26: Did that line-up play a lot of the songs that the original Misunderstood had done?

GE: Unfortunately not, that was what I wanted to play. There was a bit, but somehow they’d gone…I enjoyed it, it was a pretty good band, but I was rather frustrated in that it was the music I wanted to play, because that’s what I’d heard and I wanted to go in that direction. I think Glen had gone ‘no, we’re not doing that sort of stuff anymore’. I think he’d associated it with being a bit too ‘out there’ mentally anyway, and all sorts of things…he was going much more sort of roots/bluesy and Steve Hoard, who was a very good singer, in fact, but he was quite into that very kind of alpha male leather trousers sort of delivery and wanting to be a bit commercial …so between us, we pushed each other in all sorts of directions, thrown together by the mad situation anyway, the best thing was when we just got on and played, because it was actually a good band and we just sort of played what we felt like playing or could play….we did a version of the Beatles’ ‘She Said, She Said’, we did ‘Who do you Love?’, we occasionally did an old Misunderstood song like ‘I Can Take you to the Sun’, but very, very rarely.

Space does not permit Guy’s further memories of VDGG (hopefully to be published elsewhere)


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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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March 2, 2016 By : Category : Bands Front Page Interviews Music Tags:, , , , , ,
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Jazz for Modernists 4 – Interview with drummer Guy Evans (Part 1)

This entry is part of 7 in the series James Thomas on Jazz

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guy Evans, best known as drummer with progressive rock legends Van der Graaf Generator, grew up around jazz in Birmingham, where his mother sang Sarah Vaughan and Peggy Lee classics and his father was a bandleader. One windswept north London day back in March, he talked to ‘Jazz For Modernists’ about growing up in Brum, his role as a musical events organizer in mid-sixties Coventry, drumming in a late line-up of NUTsMag faves The Misunderstood and, above all, the influence of jazz on his musical development and the underground scene in London in the 1960s. Today, Guy continues to be engaged in a multitude of musical collaborations such as the performance collective Echo City, in addition to being an integral part of the current three-piece VDGG.

01: Your father (Joe Evans) was a saxophonist and bandleader in Birmingham. What were your first musical memories or influences?

GUY EVANS – Oh, well, that was it, and it was my mother as well, my mother was a singer… we actually lived in a flat opposite the large pub/dinner-and-dance place where my dad’s band (Joe Evans Orchestra) had a residency. Our place was pretty much the dressing room on a Saturday night… everybody ironing their tuxes…on a summer’s evening, I’d leave my bedroom window open and I could look straight over into the pub and see the band and hear them, see my Mum and Dad play.

02: A major influence on you was Bill Harris, a local trumpeter…

GE: Were there a god, Bill Harris (not of Woody Herman’s Herd) would be my godfather… he was a kind of flatmate of my parents and a very fine trumpet player… unlike my Dad, he was interested in modern jazz which a lot of big-band musicians regarded as rather alien when it first happened and he used to turn up with white label copies of the latest Charlie Parker or Miles Davis recordings. I just thought it was music from Mars… and that’s where I think it got into my DNA.

03: Was modern jazz in any way rebellious if your family was mostly playing pre-bebop swing?

GE: It wasn’t really rebellious; it was just that my dad found it all a bit too much really. I was very intrigued by it, wowed by the virtuosity, but it was just the adventure of it. One of the first musicians I really got hooked on was Miles Davis. I remember that one of the first things that struck me about Miles Davis was that I could hear the mistakes. I was thinking ‘this is music that has got mistakes in it’ or in which mistakes aren’t really mistakes, but part of the vocabulary or a different avenue, different direction to go in… I remember being very blown away by Birth of the Cool.

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04: That was released in 1957, so you must have been very young.

GE: I was ten. Before that I’d heard things that were hugely influential. My dad took me to see the Count Basie Band when I must have been about six or seven and I was just completely blown away by them. I’d never seen anything like it. I’d heard big-band music obviously, but nothing of that power, that kind of elasticity, I suppose. And the drumming, of course, was absolutely wonderful!

05: So, were the drums your first instrument?

GE: I started off playing soprano saxophone and recorder, funnily enough, but I used to go along to my dad’s big-band rehearsals and sound checks on a Saturday. I used to sneak up onto the drum kit and start fiddling around in spare moments… a few of the more waggish members of the band would start playing, so we’d have these little kind of free jazz interludes and I just loved the control when everybody started doing what I was dictating.

06: You were a big fan of Mingus. Were his records easy to get hold of?

GE: Relatively. There was a fantastic record shop in Birmingham that, to my delight, I found is still going, called the Diskery. It’s a specialist record shop, a collectors’ record shop, and now it’s all sorts of genres but then it was very much jazz and blues place and I used to just dive in there and get stuff.

07: Were you part of Birmingham’s Mod/R &B scene? Venues like Whiskey-a-Go-Go, El Sombrero coffee bar, the Kardomah Cafe?

GE: El Sombrero coffee bar I went to a couple of times, yes. In Digbeth, I think. I don’t remember who I saw there…The Kardomah Cafe was never a venue as far as I know, but it was a haunt of mine… I used to pass through the centre of Birmingham on my way to school, and that was a bit of a gathering place for the sort of hipsters from my school. There was another place, more esoteric… a little cafe called The Stage Door, behind the old Alexandra Theatre, I think. It’s gone now… that was very beatnik; one had to have one’s black roll neck sweater and gaulloises. [In terms of mod], I think that maybe I was unaware of what was happening. I was leading quite a strange life really and kind of picking my own tribe, or being my own tribe or whatever.

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Beatnik haunt: The Stage Door Cafe, Birmingham, Go here!

08: In 1965, you went to study sociology and economics at Warwick University in Coventry… ’65-’68 must have been a wonderful time to be a student?

GE: Well it was staggering: I didn’t get much work done. I went in the founding year of the university and they were just about the most hip places to go to. I was one of 400 students who went there in the first year. As my late old mate Mal Peet said, the main distractions were mini-skirts and psychedelia. But there was also music and we had this fantastically generous entertainments budget and I became very involved in how it was spent. We had a great venue, not far from the M1. Bands used to love coming to play there as it was not far, and we paid quite well and had a very good audience. We had regular gigs by the Bluesbreakers, all the classic London bands like Steampacket, Shotgun Express, Graham Bond, everybody came and played loads of times; we had Cream, I think, on their second gig for 105 quid and I managed to get (through some personal connections) the Spencer Davis Group. As luck would have it, that gig was the week they topped the charts with Keep on Running.

09: You were in a group called The New Economic Model. How did that come about?

GE: That was a bit of hustling really. People wanted to have a whole evening of music and we were spending quite a lot of effort and money on support bands. Then there were just a bunch of us who were quite into playing music. We got into a little kind of jamming scene, put together a few tunes and we finally persuaded the university that we should be the support band. We were a kind of Soul/R&B covers band, they equipped us a bit and we put together the classic line-up: two singers, guitar, bass, drums, organ, sax and did many a gig. It meant that I was playing in a band on the same bill as all sorts of great people, learning from them. Then came the great dream moment when Victor Brox’s Blues Train came to play and the drummer didn’t turn up because he’d broken down somewhere. So I volunteered to play and we had a little dressing room rehearsal and I did the whole set with them which was a real blast for me.

10: Did you keep in touch with a lot of these musicians?

GE: Yes, Victor, particularly (I haven’t seen him for years now) because when I came down to London he was playing with Aynsley Dunbar. Aynsley’s two roadies lived in the flat above me and we became really good mates. I used to go and see Aynsley’s gigs all the time because I thought he was a great drummer.

11: Do you remember a band from Coventry called The Sorrows?

GE: Yes, I do. I don’t remember seeing them. I remember my cousin talking about seeing them, but I don’t think I saw them myself.

12: Peter Hammill (VDGG singer/songwriter) cites The Beatles’ Revolver, particularly ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ as a milestone. Do you recall Revolver [August 1966] having an influence on changing musical styles of bands coming to Coventry?

GE: I don’t know about bands coming to Coventry, because they were still very much the British blues boom…I think that remained quite a solid core of a particular style that I really loved. There were quite sudden moves into psychedelia, I suppose… Zoot Money suddenly became Dantalion’s Chariot and it all became quite psychedelic. One of the earliest bands we had at Warwick was The Move and that was interesting because, apart from looking really sharp, they were an extremely good band. They were quite hard-edged and loud and blowing up televisions and that kind of stuff. And then the next thing that came to Warwick that, live, was anything like a shift, was The Incredible String Band…and then it was Pink Floyd.

13: Was New Economic Model a jazzy R&B band in the Brian Auger/Graham Bond style?

GE: Yes it was, because the big thing that had come into popular taste or reasonably soft popular taste was Soul/R&B. We had the soul revue coming over. People were suddenly picking up on all this stuff. So they liked to dance to Eddie Floyd and Sam & Dave etc. There is a fabulous discipline in it (Stax, Motown) and, also, it is fairly forgiving of limited ability as long as you do the right thing. That was nice, to be able to discover that energy of an ensemble doing some relatively simple things, but doing them with some energy and feel.

14: So, were you able to keep your jazz drumming going, as opposed to having to completely change style?

GE: Yes. I’d say, with my jazz drumming, I always feel a bit bogus with that. I really love playing it with people who are very forgiving of me, but I don’t really claim to be a jazz drummer. It’s more something that’s in my blood as an influence than something I’ve ever really sat down and studied… I have a semi-frustrated, semi-in-awe relationship with jazz really. I’m in awe of the playing ability and the knowledge and the dedication; but I also get frustrated by the sort of familiarity of the territory now, sometimes. I thought it was incredibly rich the first time I saw Roland Kirk, Albert Ayler, Sonny Rollins, Archie Shepp, and, of course, John McLaughlin, all those people. I was aware that I was seeing something real fantastic, something new, something that I was not even bothered whether it was jazz or not!


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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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November 20, 2015 By : Category : Bands Front Page Interviews Music Tags:, , , , ,
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Jazz for Modernists 3 – Ornette Coleman (1930-2015) (Part 2)

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series James Thomas on Jazz

 

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August 29, 1965. Croydon. England. Shortly before the Beatles endured relentless screaming at the Hollywood Bowl, the Ornette Coleman Trio greeted a smaller, more ‘listening’ audience at Fairfield Halls, a much-appreciated venue on Greater London’s southern fringes. This was Coleman’s first British date, part of a major European tour lasting until May 1966 (including, later that spring, a four-week residency at Ronnie Scott’s and concerts in other major cities). The trio’s European trip dovetailed with a period of revolutionary experimentation in popular culture, that transitional period when London was in full swing, California was ‘a-dreamin’’, Byrds’ guitarist Jim McGuinn (on ‘Eight Miles High’) imitated John Coltrane and the Beatles transformed themselves from the slightly anxious individuals of Help! to the dandified aural astronauts of Revolver.

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By 1965, Coleman’s freedom-searching, boundary-shifting music was not simply a badge of uber-beatnik identity or confined to the margins of experimental jazz and the classical avant-garde, but had infiltrated the previously ‘straight-ahead’ forms of R & B and folk music. The shift from beat, folk and R & B to psychedelic rock privileges (in addition to pot and LSD) a new awareness of Eastern and Indian music among such luminaries as George Harrison, Brian Jones, David Crosby, Jeff Beck, Donovan, Ray Davies and Jerry Garcia. True. The importance of Indian sounds and imagery is paramount. But not only had Eastern-style modes already featured in jazz (check out John Coltrane’s modal 1961 classic ‘India’, but the ‘free’ music of Coleman, Coltrane, Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler contributed other important elements to the development of psychedelic and ‘progressive’ music from 1965 onwards.

Coleman’s influence on British jazz dates to 1959. Whilst not all his Atlantic LPs were released immediately in Britain, copies of non-UK albums were shared by American GIs, imported by specialist shops and played on more daring European radio stations. Despite hostility to Coleman’s new approach within some modern jazz circles, British jazz from 1960-1965 was familiar with notions of freedom. Joe Harriott, independently of Coleman, recorded Free Form (1961) and Abstract (1963) with other West Indians: Coleridge Goode (bass) and Shake Keane (trumpet, flugelhorn), and British-born Pat Smythe (piano) and Phil Seamen (drums). By 1966, Harriott was also experimenting with Indian music, soon to record Indo-Jazz Fusions I & II with composer and multi-instrumentalist John Mayer. Around 1960, Coleman-loving New Departures poets Peter Brown and Michael Horowitz invited Ronnie Scott’s house rhythm section (including pianist Stan Tracey and bassist Jeff Clyne) to live performances combining spoken word and jazz. These led to the New Departures Quartet, featuring legendary Scottish saxophonist Bobby Wellins, which released an LP in 1964 for Transatlantic Records.

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Coleman’s blues-drenched radical music was also an (often overlooked) influence on the emerging British R & B scene, particularly on musicians working with Alexis Korner and Graham Bond. Although partly a reaction to the conservatism of ‘trad jazz’, from the late ’50s British R & B had incorporated modernist and mainstream jazzers. Bond’s alto work with tenorist Don Rendell was compared to Coleman. Though Bond actually preferred Eric Dolphy, Coleman was a major inspiration to the other members of the Graham Bond Organization: bassist Jack Bruce, drummer Ginger Baker and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith. Bruce later claimed he and Baker had envisaged Eric Clapton’s role in Cream mirroring Ornette’s in his trio. Bruce, with Heckstall-Smith, future Colosseum drummer John Hiseman and guitarist John McLaughlin, would record the Ornette-inspired Things We Like LP in August 1968, three months before Cream’s final performance at the Albert Hall.

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By August 1965, then, Coleman was a key figure within several interlocking contexts: the New Departures poetry crowd, freer modern jazz, avant-garde improvisational music and the trajectories of various pioneering musicians (Bruce, Baker, Heckstall-Smith, Syd Barrett, proto-Soft Machine) looking to push R & B into unchartered waters. These people shared Ornette’s fluid, egalitarian philosophy of freedom in which each instrument could potentially represent any human voice. The British debut of the Coleman Trio, early in the counter-cultural ‘underground’, was a symbolic opportunity to affect and engage with the experimental zeitgeist. Organized by Michael Horovitz, pioneering improvisational music promoter Victor Schonfield (who’d met Ornette in New York in 1964) and Pete Brown, the Croydon concert was part of Horovitz’ Live New Departures series of multi-media performances, poetry readings, concerts and happenings. Due to unsatisfactory British Musical Union laws, Coleman composed a piece of classical music to qualify him as a ‘serious’ musician and therefore bypass regulations prohibiting performances by American jazz musicians.

The resulting twenty-four-minute ‘Forms and Sounds for Wind Quintet’, performed by the Virtuoso Ensemble, provided an interesting interlude between pianist Mike Taylor’s quartet (featuring John Hiseman, bassist Tony Reeves and sax player Dave Tomlin) and the Coleman Trio. The Trio, with drummer Charles Moffett and bass virtuoso David Izenson, then perform stunning versions of seven tracks including ‘Sadness’ and ‘Doughnut[s]’ from the recently released Town Hall, 1962 LP and the John Cage-inspired ‘Silence’ (where Coleman answers with witty aplomb a heckler requesting Ray Noble’s tricky standard ‘Cherokee’). The Croydon concert, now available on CD, was released in 1967 in Germany as the double box set An Evening with Ornette Coleman (see first photo). An exceptional testimony to Coleman’s unique genius and an intriguing source of future musical adventures in British music, critic Barry McRae called it ‘some of the greatest jazz ever presented in this country’ (“Ornette Coleman – Live”, Jazz Journal ,October 1965).

Some of those adventures up to 1970 can be traced here. In October 1965, Mike Taylor’s quartet recorded Pendulum, one of the rarest items in British jazz. Released on Columbia in June 1966, it reveals Taylor’s huge potential as a pianist somewhere between free jazz and lyrical post bop. Like Pete Brown, Taylor would collaborate with Cream, writing music for ‘Passing the Time’, ‘Pressed Rat and Warthog’ and ‘Those were the Days’ from Wheels of Fire (1968). Jack Bruce would feature on his second LP Trio (1967). A friend of the equally troubled Graham Bond and a heavy user of LSD, Taylor was found drowned in 1969. Another important 1966 release was Challenge (Eyemark Records) by the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, formed by drummer John Stevens and saxophonist Trevor Watts. Recorded in March, the album included two direct tributes to Ornette and Eric Dolphy (‘2.B. Ornette’ and ‘E.D’s message’). SME, who enjoyed a residency at London’s Little Theatre, signed to Island records for their second LP, Karyobin (1968), featuring some of the earliest recordings of leading British alto player Evan Parker.

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An important link between Ornette and British psychedelia was Steve Stollman, brother of Bernard, founder of US avant-garde label ESP-disk, one of whose earliest releases was Coleman’s Town Hall, 1962 LP. Stollman was in London in early ’66 to promote ESP. With Barry Miles and John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins, founders of International Times, he helped organize the Spontaneous Underground ‘happenings’ at the Marquee, one of which (Trip, 13 March 1966), featured Pink Floyd Sound and the free improvisation trio AMM. Formed by Eddie Prévost (drums), Lou Gare (saxophone) and Keith Rowe (guitar) and soon to be joined by oboist Lawrence Sheaff and avant-garde composer Cornelius Cardew, AMM were part of Mike Westbrook’s big band before reaching the ears of Victor Schonfield in late 1965. Alongside Donovan, an African vocal group and ESP’s British signings the Peter Lemer Quintet (whose 1967 LP Local Colour featured baritone saxophonist John Surman), AMM played the first Spontaneous Underground event, the so-called ‘Giant Mystery Happening’ (30 January, 1966). Performing with Pink Floyd on several occasions in 1966-7, they inspired the sonic guitar experiments of Syd Barrett, who attended the recording of their debut AMMUSIC (May 1966). Whilst not the only inspirations for Pink Floyd, AMM or any other British improvisational or psychedelic act, Coleman was a key influence on Barrett and organist Rick Wright, while Eddie Prévost remarked in 2002 that ‘the music of Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler gave us permission to disobey’ (George McKay, Circular Breathing, 2005, pp. 196).

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This refusal to ‘obey’ musical rules helps explain Coleman’s influence on British music in the late 1960s. The Trio’s 1966 gigs at Ronnie Scott’s and elsewhere divided the jazz world in much the same way as Bob Dylan’s almost contemporary British tour did amongst folkies. Melody Maker’s Benny Green, disparaging of the saxophonist’s chromatic playing and anticipating Withnail and I, remarked: ‘Like a stopped clock, Coleman is right at least twice a day’ (John Fordham, Jazz Man: The Amazing Story of Ronnie Scott and his Club, 1995, p. 121). Disappointingly, Thelonius Monk was another critical attendee at Ronnie Scott’s. However, others left with positive impressions, including future Yes drummer Bill Bruford and a young Ian Dury.

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The boundaries between jazz, rock and improvisational performance were breaking down fast. Coleman’s next London concert in February 1968 (at the Albert Hall) featured Yoko Ono (whom he’d met in Paris) simulating what (in a recorded rehearsal at least) sounds like her nascent passion for John Lennon. The revolutionary atmosphere of 1968 in Britain was probably more suited to incendiary free jazz and improvisation than 1967. In addition to Jack Bruce’s first solo LP, 1968 saw Heckstall-Smith, Hiseman and Tony Reeves appear on John Mayall’s Bare Wires LP and the formation around this trio of Colosseum, arguably the first progressive jazz-rock band. Fusion was also happening within Folk: Ornette was familiar to the groundbreaking acoustic guitarist Davy Graham and future members of Pentangle and Notting Hill’s Third Ear Band (featuring Dave Tomlin on violin). Alongside Coltrane, Ayler, Roland Kirk and Sonny Rollins, by the end of the decade Coleman’s example had not only inspired experimentation, but also cemented the saxophone within ‘progressive’ rock. Among major British players in this field were: George Khan (ex Peter Lemer Quintet, Pete Brown & the Battered Ornaments), Barbara Thompson (Colosseum), Elton Dean and Lyn Dobson (Keith Tippett Group, Soft Machine), Ian McDonald and Mel Collins (King Crimson), David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator) and Phil Shulman (Gentle Giant).


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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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September 23, 2015 By : Category : Front Page General Inspiration ModJazz Music USA Tags:, , , , , , , ,
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Jazz for Modernists 2 – Ornette Coleman (1930-2015) (Part 1)

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series James Thomas on Jazz

Jazz for Modernists 2 – Ornette Coleman (1930-2015) (Part 1)

(Don Cherry & Ornette Coleman at Five Spot Café, New York, November, 1959)

ornette_coleman_2

On June 11, 2015, the world of jazz (and beyond) lost one of its most revolutionary figures of the past sixty years: Texas-born composer, saxophonist, occasional violinist/trumpeter and all-round visionary Ornette Coleman (1930-2015). Like John Coltrane and pianist Cecil Taylor, his major North American contemporaries in the foundations of what became known slightly problematically as ‘free jazz’, Coleman’s influence was enormous, his legacy both undeniable and at times controversial. This brief article (the first of two) does not attempt to cover his life or major works, though it examines recordings from 1958 to 1965. Readers looking for reliable general appreciations of Coleman can consult other recent obituaries:

Instead, through an overview of his earliest UK releases, coupled with some fascinating nuggets of information about key listeners, I will outline Ornette’s importance for British music during the first half of that decade. In part two, I will examine in more depth his importance for the specific shift in our beloved modernist world towards the experimentations of the counter-culture and underground scenes of the middle and later sixties.

1959. A pivotal year for jazz in Britain. The disbanding of the Tubby Hayes – and Ronnie Scott-led Jazz Couriers; the second UK tour by the Modern Jazz Quartet and the opening of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club at 39 Gerrard Street. It also signalled the first official British release of an Ornette Coleman LP: Tomorrow is the Question! (Contemporary/Vogue), described by blogger ‘London Jazz Collector’ as “Perhaps tame by future “free jazz” standards, but adventurous and uncompromising in its time”. This is a fair appraisal of a record which, like its predecessor Something Else! (1958), still provided (minus piano) a fairly conventional bop rhythm section to Coleman’s (and trumpeter Don Cherry’s) non-chordal harmonic and melodic improvisations. By the time his quartet had divided opinion with its residency at New York’s Five Spot (November 1959), Coleman’s first Atlantic LP, The Shape of Jazz to Come had appeared in the States (though its official UK release was not until 1966).

ornette_coleman_1

With Coleman’s quartet now featuring Cherry, Billy Higgins (drums) and dapper bassist Charlie Haden, The Shape of Jazz to Come is considered a major staging post on the journey from bebop to free jazz. Critic Piero Scaruffi writes: “The idea was to make every member of the band a soloist equal to the others and to free the improvisation from musical constraints: basically, each individual was only bound to the mood of the other individuals, not to the technical aspects of the music that they were playing” (http://www.scaruffi.com/history/jazz15a.html). The music, though, was still rooted in the blues and even pre-blues forms (field hollers, laments). This is perhaps not surprising, as Coleman had paid his dues in various rhythm and blues combos in Texas and on the West Coast during the 1950s. For this reason alone (to say nothing of his band’s sartorial elegance c.1960-1962), the quartet’s LPs on Atlantic are required listening for today’s open-minded modernists. Take ‘Lonely Woman’, from Shape, for example, or ‘Ramblin’’ from its follow-up Change of the Century (1960). Both tracks are infused with blues feeling. The first is an impression of a rich white woman wearing “the most solitary expression in the world”. Of the second, Coleman wrote in the sleeve notes: “Ramblin’ is basically a blues, but it has a modern, more independent melodic line than older blues have, of course”. Perhaps music writer Richard Williams summed it up perfectly last week, reminiscing about his first encounter with the 1961 LP This is Our Music. Rightly hailing the “impossibly cool” cover appearance of the quartet (now with drummer Ed Blackwell), he wrote: “Nothing about it, the raw timbre of the horns, the lack of conventional chord sequences bothered me in the slightest. What it had, apart from undoubted modernity, was the “cry” that went back to the origins of the blues”.

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Early receptions of Coleman’s music in the UK jazz press (Melody Maker, Jazz Journal, Jazz Monthly etc) were not always complimentary. Alun Morgan, in Jazz Monthly (June 1959), for example, remarked that he “appears to be handicapped by his own bad fingering in places and frequently produces two simultaneous notes an octave apart (in Claire O’Neal, Ornette Coleman, 2013, p. 22). However, for some young ‘in-the-know’ jazz musicians, this rejection gave him an appealing outsider status. Composer and double-bassist Gavin Bryars remembered “as a kid in Goole hearing the Ornette Coleman Quintet on the radio, 1958 or 1959, and thinking it was fantastic. I also loved it because it was being so much reviled by the jazz press, I thought this must be great” (Ben Watson, Derek Bailey and the Story of Free Improvisation, 2004, p. 82). The views of Morgan and Bailey encapsulate the divided opinions Ornette Coleman engendered throughout his career.

One important audience for this new music comprised intellectuals, poets and beatniks associated with Michael Horovitz’ New Departures, a new poetry journal emanating from Oxford. A student at Brasenose College, Oxford University, Horovitz, alongside Liverpool poet Pete Brown and David Sladen, played a key role in introducing readers to beat writers such as Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. In June 1965, he would also be one of the brains behind The International Poetry Incarnation at the Albert Hall, often claimed to be the birthplace of the British ‘Underground’ counter-culture and (less plausibly) ‘Swinging London’. In volume 4 of New Departures (1962), a number devoted to jazz, Coleman’s work was appraised seriously alongside contemporaries Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor. Dolphy, who played UK dates in 1961, had appeared as part of a double quartet on Coleman’s extended improvisation Free Jazz (1961), which was initially only available in Britain on import. However, specialist jazz record shops in major cities were not slow to meet the demand for the new experimental forms of jazz. Furthermore, the case of London-based West-Indian sax player Joe Harriott, whose Free Form (1961) was recorded just before Free Jazz, shows that British modern jazz was undergoing its own revolutionary changes.

ornette_coleman_4

Between 1962 and 1965, despite a self-imposed two-year break from live performance and recording, Coleman was gaining significant attention in Britain on the fringes of beatnik and mod circles. In Cambridge, where the New Departures crowd would stage readings and ‘happenings’, future Pink Floyd members Rick Wright, Syd Barrett and their entourage were fans. In Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd: Dark Globe (2010), Julian Palacios paints a vivid picture of free-jazz-loving ‘hip undergraduates’ rubbing shoulders with Vespa-riding mods, Barrett seemingly with a foot in each camp. In Canterbury (and later Mallorca), Australian beatnik Daevid Allen shared his love of Ornette with Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers and Mike Ratledge (who in 1966 would become Soft Machine). Wyatt, who in Jonathan Green’s essential Days in the Life: Voices from the English Underground, describes his mod youth in the early sixties, recently paid generous tribute to his hero: “His voice is immediately unique, as if he were the last surviving speaker of an ancient language”.

By the time of his first UK concert, at Fairfield Halls, Croydon, August 29, 1965, hastily organised by Horovitz, Brown and promoter of experimental music Victor Schonfield, Coleman’s music enjoyed currency not only among jazz and improvisational avant-gardes, but also the more searching elements of the rhythm and blues/nascent rock world. Two further Atlantic LPs (with bassists Scott LaFaro and Jimmy Garrison) had appeared in Europe: Ornette! (1962), recorded just five weeks after Free Jazz in January 1961 and Ornette on Tenor (1962), the latter of which Richard Cook and Brian Morton say “hooks Ornette back into the raw R&B of his Texas roots” (The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 2000, p. 300). His new trio, featuring Charlie Moffett on drums and David Inzenzon on bass, had recorded Town Hall Concert (in December 1962) and a June 1965 soundtrack with free tenor player Pharaoh Sanders for the film Chappaqua (though director Conrad Rooks would ultimately use music by Ravi Shankar). The Kinks (minus Ray Davies) had seen the new Coleman trio perform in Greenwich Village in February 1965, while bands from the emerging American rock underground (Grateful Dead, Velvet Underground, The Fugs) were incorporating elements of his free improvisational styles into their own blues, folk and European-based music. Part two of this article will return to Ornette Coleman’s influence on the psychedelic and underground British music of 1965-1970.


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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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July 8, 2015 By : Category : Front Page ModJazz Music Picks Reviews Tags:, , ,
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Jazz for Modernists 1- Intro

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series James Thomas on Jazz

Introduction: Ten for Starters

Hello, my name is James Thomas. Welcome to a new series about modern jazz in connection with modernism as understood by the New Untouchables, an important subject sometimes under-represented among mods and 50s/60s fans.

What was the role of jazz for the mod attitude and aesthetic? How much did early mods really listen to jazz? Where did they buy their records/hear live music? Did some mods follow ‘trad jazz’ due to its links with early  British R&B? How was jazz represented in fiction, film and other forms of cultural media? What about British and European modern jazz?

Jazz is fundamental to Mod history. The Ace/Kent label has produced a series of excellent ‘Mod Jazz’ CDs/LPs, concentrating on music for the dance floor. These are brilliant introductions to soul-jazz, funky hard bop, danceable cool, Latin and jazzy R&B. See, AN EXAMPLE IS HERE!

Jazz ‘beyond’ the dance floor, though, is equally ‘where it’s at’. Far from being ‘too intellectual’, modal jazz, the New Thing, post-bop, free jazz and their offshoots complement well the existential attitude of today’s mindful modernist.

Here are ten introductions to various styles of modern jazz. They’re not a ‘top ten’ of ‘mod jazz’, but they cover a lot of ground and introduce some essential names.

1. Bebop

Dizzy Gillespie & His Sextet: ‘Night in Tunisia’ (1946) (From Bluebird 66528-2CD The Complete RCA Victor Recordings, 1995)

GREAT VIDEO HERE!

dizzy_g

Written in 1942 (by Dizzy Gillespie and pianist Frank Paparelli), ‘(A) Night in Tunisia’ is a standard of bebop, the style pioneered in the early 40s by, among others, trumpeter John ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie, alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, pianists Thelonius Monk and Bud Powell, drummers Kenny Clarke and Max Roach, guitarist Charlie Christian and double bassist Ray Brown. Bebop (or bop), evolving from big band swing, was developed by Kansas City – and New York-based musicians experimenting with harmony, rhythm and improvisation. ‘Night in Tunisia’ has often been covered; twice by drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1957 and 1960). Though not the first version (Gillespie recorded it for Continental in 1944 with singer Sarah Vaughan & Her All Stars as ‘Interlude’), this 1946 recording is possibly the most important.

2. Cubop/Latin

Charlie Parker/ Machito & His Orchestra: ‘Okiedoke’ (1949) (From High Definition Jazz HDJ 4076-CD The Latin Bird, 2000)

GREAT VIDEO HERE!

Charlie_parker

Dizzy Gillespie encountered Latin rhythms in Cab Calloway’s 1930s orchestra through Cuban bandleader Mario Bauzá, later leader of the dance orchestra of singer-percussionist Machito (Frank Grillo). In May 1943, at Manhattan’s La Conga club, the orchestra (minus Machito) wrote ‘Tangá’, probably the first fusion of Cuban rhythms and black swing-band phrasing. The inevitable dialogue between Latin music and bebop became known as Cubop. Gillespie’s 1947 big band included percussionist Chano Pozo, composer of ‘Tin Tin Deo’ and ‘Manteca’, while West-Coast pianist/bandleader Stan Kenton appeared with Machito’s Afro-Cuban orchestra at New York’s Town Hall (January 1948). Norman Granz recorded Machito for his Clef label in 1948 and, soon after, with Charlie Parker. ‘Okiedoke’, where Parker’s solo is fairly straight bebop, is a good example of the genre.

3. Cool Jazz

The Modern Jazz Quartet: ‘Ralph’s New Blues’ (1955) (From Prestige LP 7005 Concorde)

Formed in 1952, The Modern Jazz Quartet became synonymous with ‘Cool jazz’, a term covering various styles that, from around 1946, dispensed with bebop’s fiery tempos. Although mainstays Milt Jackson (vibes) and John Lewis (piano) were trained in bop improvisation, Lewis was in the Miles Davis Nonet, which in 1949/50 recorded some important sides with arranger Gil Evans (released in 1957 as Birth of the Cool). Davis, Lewis and Evans (with Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Lee Konitz, Paul Desmond, Dave Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan) took a more subdued, ordered approach, influenced by European classical (particularly Baroque Chamber) music. The MJQ were popular in Europe, providing the soundtrack to Roger Vadim’s 1957 film Sait-on jamais (released in the US as No Sun in Venice and the UK as One Never Knows).

4. Hard Bop

Horace Silver & the Jazz Messengers: ‘The Preacher’ (1955) (From Blue Note LP 1518 Horace Silver & the Jazz Messengers)

HoraceSilverAndTheJazzMesse

Connecticut-born Horace Silver (1928-2014) was a key pianist in ‘hard bop’, a style developed from the mid-50s to the mid-60s. Absorbing bebop’s new vocabulary, it drew on blues, gospel and rhythm & blues (big and small band) in contrast to the classical influences of ‘cool’ and chamber jazz. Hard bop numbers were longer than bebop or straight R&B, melodies alternating with lengthy soloing. Around 1953, Silver and drummer Art Blakey formed the Jazz Messengers, a constantly-evolving combo featuring the cream of East Coast jazz musicians. The catchy, gospel fused ‘The Preacher’ was initially deemed too ‘old-fashioned’ by Blue Note producer Alfred Lion. Silver’s own quintets, incorporating Latin, soul and modal jazz influences, recorded many fine albums for Blue Note, including The Tokyo Blues (1962), Song for My Father (1964) and The Jody Grind (1966).

5. (Cutting-Edge) Hard Bop

Thelonius Monk quartet, with John Coltrane: ‘Bye-ya’ (1957) (From Blue Note CD Thelonius Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall, 2005)

‘Straight ahead’ and ‘funky’ hard bop, exemplified by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, trumpeter Lee Morgan, saxophonists Sonny Rollins and Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley and Horace Silver’s groups was probably the dominant form of mainstream modern jazz from 1955-1967. However, many musicians involved were not content to repeat the formula. The first great Miles Davis Quintet (1955-1958), featuring John Coltrane on tenor sax, pushed boundaries on LPs like Relaxin’ (Prestige, 1957). In 1957, Coltrane joined the quartet of unclassifiable genius Thelonius Monk for a residency at New York’s Five Spot Cafe. His playing on Monk’s calypso-inspired ‘Bye-ya’, recorded at a recently unearthed concert at Carnegie Hall (November 1957), reveals how Coltrane’s ‘sheets of sound’ style owed much to his interaction with Monk’s abstract
piano phrasings.

6. Modal Jazz

Miles Davis: ‘All Blues’ (1959) (From Columbia LP CL1355/CS1863 Kind of Blue)

miles_davis

From Miles Davis’ epoch-defining Kind of Blue, ‘All Blues’, featuring Coltrane and pianist Bill Evans, is a foundational example of modal jazz (the title track of Milestones (1958) is often considered the first). Theorised by composer/bandleader George Russell (1923-2009), modal jazz uses scales or modes rather than chords for harmonic progression. This sounds technical and it’s often easier to identify than describe modal playing. Suffice to say, improvisation around scales allowed greater melodic and harmonic freedom and drone effects evoking an exotic, ‘Eastern’ flavour. Coltrane pursued modal styles after 1960 on tracks like ‘India’, ‘Impressions’ and ‘A Love Supreme’. Pianists McCoy Tyner (from Coltrane’s quartet) and Herbie Hancock (whose ‘Maiden Voyage’ is key) brought modal techniques to hard bop on their Blue Note sessions and those of artists like vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and saxophonist
Joe Henderson.

7. Soul jazz 

Ray Bryant Trio: ‘Shake a Lady’’ (1964) Sue 108

Ray-Bryant-Prestige-7098

It’s quite difficult to distinguish ‘soul jazz’ from ‘hard bop’. ‘Moanin’, by Philadelphia-born pianist Bobby Timmons, is considered early soul-jazz; yet the first LP it features on, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (1958), is classic hard bop. Soul jazz perhaps emphasises gospel’s call-and-response structure more. While hard bop usually privileges at least one brass instrument, soul jazz often worked in a rhythm trio format, particularly with Hammond organists like Jack McDuff, Richard Holmes and Jimmy Smith. Another Philly pianist, Ray Bryant (1931-2011), perfected a funky soul jazz style for various labels (Columbia, Prestige, Sue and Cadet). His dance floor mover ‘Shake a Lady’, covered the following year by “Cannonball” Adderley, is classic soul jazz.

8. Post-Hard Bop

Charles Mingus: ‘Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting’ (1959) (From Atlantic LP 1305 Blue & Roots)

charlie_mingus

Double bassist, bandleader, writer and composer Charles Mingus (1922-1979) was a legendary figure for modernists, beats, original hipsters and progressive folkies like Bert Jansch and Davey Graham. His extensive discography includes five or six essential LPs for modernists, including Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956), Mingus Ah Um (1959) and Blues & Roots (1960). ‘Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting’ kicks off the latter in fine style, a frenetic, buzzing take on soulful blues featuring a six-strong horn line-up (including future Blue Note star, altoist Jackie McLean, the gospel-driven piano of Horace Parlan and Mingus’ stunning lead bass). Somewhere between Ray Charles and the free jazz of Ornette Coleman, this is five minutes of aural tension that all modernists need to hear.

9. Avant-garde/New Thing

Eric Dolphy: ‘The Prophet’ (live) (1961) (From New Jazz LP NJ 8260 At The Five Spot)

ERIC_DOLPHY

Los Angeles-born multi-instrumentalist (flute, alto sax, bass clarinet) Eric Dolphy (1928-1964), like fellow travellers Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor, was part of the so-called ‘New Thing’ in jazz. Veteran of sessions with Chico Hamilton and Mingus, in 1960 Dolphy recorded his first two LPs for New Jazz: Outward Bound and Out There, and featured on Coleman’s groundbreaking Atlantic LP, Free Jazz. In 1961, a momentous year, he recorded with Coltrane (Olé), George Russell (Ezz-thetics), pianist Mal Waldron (The Quest) and trumpet prodigy Booker Little (Far Cry). That July 16, a quintet featuring Dolphy, Little, Waldron, bassist Richard Davis (who would play on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks) and drummer Eddie Blackwell recorded at New York’s Five Spot around two hours of fantastically modern music, including ‘The Prophet’, described by critic Michael G. Nastos as “a puckery blues… armed with minor phrasings and stretched harmonics” (Allmusic). Dolphy’s masterpiece Out to Lunch (1964) would be his only recording for Blue Note.

10. Avant-garde/Post-bop

Andrew Hill: ‘Siete Ocho’ (1964) From Blue Note BLP 4159/BST 84159 Judgment!

andrew_hill

Of Haitian origin, Chicago-born pianist Andrew Hill (1931-2007) recorded a dozen or so outstanding, challenging sessions for Blue Note between 1963 and 1970. With one foot in tradition, another in the future, Hill, like Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard and the second great Miles Davis Quintet with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, skirted the fringes of the avant-garde around a broad range of styles now defined as ‘post-bop’. Opening his third Blue Note session, Judgment! (1964), ‘Siete Ocho’ (Spanish for 7/8) is a pulsating nine-minute dialogue between Hill’s exploratory piano and Bobby Hutcherson’s atmospheric vibes, propelled by probing bass from Richard Davis and powerful drumming from Coltrane’s sticks man Elvin Jones.


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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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May 5, 2015 By : Category : Front Page ModJazz Music Picks Reviews Tags:,
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