Browsing Tag Jazz

Record Review – Rob Bailey – Sept 2017

 

Record Review – Rob Bailey – Sept 2017

KING MOJO – IRONSTONED

 


Four-piece Hammond driven Garage-Punk band from Middlesbrough team up with Medway’s finest Graham Day, at Ranscombe Studios on the banks of the Medway for a hard-hitting EP. Four strong originals with ‘5th Time Around’ being my personal favorite. Available on CD and Vinyl with more to come from King Mojo.
www.facebook.com/kingmojo.uk


LET THE MUSIC PLAY – GENE PITNEY/ REVIEWING THE SITUATION – JACKIE BOND

 

Another fine release from Spoke Records. The Gene Pitney ‘She’s A Heartbreaker’ era track is a great slab of Blue-Eyed Soul restored and remastered from a battered Emi-Disc acetate. The highlight however is a superb version of Lionel Bart’s ‘Reviewing the Situation’ from the musical ‘Oliver’. This is every bit as good as the better-known Sandie Shaw version. It was due for release on Strike or subsidiary GO in 1967 originally before they went bust, only to find its way on the ‘Dream Babes’ CD in 2003. Now finally available on 45 grab one quick folks.
spokerecords.co.uk


INTRODUCING – THE DEEP SIX

Brand new album on Heavy Soul records features Mark McGounden of MAKIN’ TIME and UPPER FIFTH and Paul Hooper-Keeley of the THREADS together with the multi-talented Tony Barbados banging the drums and Niall Keohane on bass. There is no re-working or covers here, just fourteen strong MODern soulful tracks.
www.facebook.com/TheDeepSixOfficial/


FOGBOUND – LP

 

A masterpiece beautifully packaged from one of our favourite 21st century bands also available on a limited red vinyl edition. Ten strong originals from a band that are growing in confidence with every gig and release. This album will no doubt become as revered as some of those sixties classic in years to come. Grab your copy now before they sell out and start going for silly money like some of the early singles from the link below.
www.johncolbysect.com


PIAGGIO SOUL COMBINATION – ITALIAN BOOGALOO

 

The first album by this Pisa Soul-Jazz collective is limited to just 300 copies. These five faces clearly have a love for the Vespa as well as great music. Three covers from Brian Auger, William Bell and Eddie Harris shows you the bag this band are in. Three is the reoccurring theme here with guest vocalists Irene Mori, Sara Piaggesi and Marina Mulopulos. More to come from the PSC.
www.sanantonio42.it


REBECCA DRY & RADEK AZUL BAND – BRING BACK SOUL

 

An English singer living in Paris who possesses a wide and powerful voice in a Northern and Deep Soul style. Her debut album ‘Rebecca Dry Sings Soul’ was a hit. And her second ‘Bring Back Soul’ with the ‘Radek Azul Band’ again is another triumph from the excellent Q-Sounds stable. Do yourself a favor and purchase a copy of this album from the link below. www.qsoundsrecording.com/


SUNBURST – THE MEN

 

The Men have had some favorable reviews on NUTSMAG from Graham in the past. ‘Sunburst’ is a change of musical direction partly down to a change of drummers and the recording process with a more organic approach. Band members played new musical instruments and adopted a more soulful approach, reminiscent of late era Beatles in some places. This album gives The Men another dimension to their energetic live shows.
www.themen.se


LITTLE BARRIE – DEATH EXPRESS

 

Having followed the band from the very early days and done countless gigs with them it’s always a joy to hear the new material which always takes a fresh approach. ‘Death Express’ is a sonic album of clever Psychedelic Garage Rock riffs from singer, songwriter and demon guitarist Barrie Cadogan. It’s amazing what sounds this trio can produce with Virgil’s tight break beat drumming and Lewis Soulful bass lines. The result a double album with twenty tracks, go grab a copy of this future classic before it’s too late.
www.littlebarrie.com


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drrobert

I run The New Untouchables organization and events like the Brighton Mod Weekender, Le Beat Bespoké Festival (and compilation series of the same name) and I co-organize Euro Ye Ye with the Trouble & Tea crew. I have run many clubs over the last 20 years in London, where I live and current nights include Timebox, Zoo Zoo, Crossfire, 100 Club and Mousetrap allnighter which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011. I have been lucky to DJ all over the globe including Japan, Canada, USA and Europe and met some great people on my journey. I run RnB Records to offset my vinyl addiction: newuntouchables.com/rnbrecords for rare vintage vinyl.

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September 7, 2017 By : Category : Bands Front Page General Music Reviews Tags:, , , , , , , , , , , ,
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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 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’.

horace_silver_trio_vol-_2

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.

220px-soulbrothers_raycharlesmiltjackson

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

220px-them_dirty_blues_cover

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

220px-the_honeydripper_album

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

220px-bashjimmy

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

220px-lee_morgan-the_sidewinder_album_cover

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

220px-song_for_my_father_horace_silver_album_-_cover_art

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

chile_con_soul

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

220px-its_uptown

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

groovin_with_the_soulful_strings_1967_lp_cover

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 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”.

ornette_coleman_3

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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Book & Mags Reviews – Nov 2013 (Part 1)

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Book Reviews

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess

Published in 1962 it is becoming increasingly difficult to ascertain whether the literary masterpiece that is Anthony Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’ has had the impact on youth (sub)cultures that many proclaim it has, or indeed whether it is Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 cinematic portrayal with it’s heavily modern/pop art influenced stylising, fashions, sets and architecture. A portrayal quoted by Burgess as being “badly flawed”. Kubrick’s film was interestingly the second adaptation of the book – the first being the little known ‘Vinyl’ directed by one Andy Warhol.

Due to the conflicts of aesthetics between the two one could strongly argue the latter – its main participants being dressed in black with waistcoats and cravats. A far cry to the visually aped-by-many attire of the young Malcolm McDowell .

Having first read A Clockwork Orange during the early 1990’s, at a time when Kubrick’s film was still officially banned in the UK, I was immediately thrown and confused, yet enamoured, to the (I now see) wondrous use of’‘nadsa’ – the street tongue dialect of our antihero, Alex and his wily gang of cohorts, affectionately and tribally referred to as his ‘droogs’.

Set against a dystopian and futuristic backdrop, Alex is the atypical 15 year old young man, whose desire and pursuits in life firmly revolve around the satisfaction of desire – be it sexually, violently, psychotropically or aurally – through his passionate desire for the music of Beethoven, whose music makes Alex stir, feel moved, driven and alive – a comparison easily levied against most or all sub-cultures since their post-war emergence with the Teddy Boys and Mods.

Set in three parts, each detailing a significant and specific part of Alex’s life, part one begins at the Korova Milk Bar, where our gang of unruly droogs sit drinking the establishments finest Milk Plus – a little concoction made of milk and laced with whatever chemical stimulant one requires – whilst plotting their nights activities. A night which invariably will encounter the vilest of antisocial behaviour from rape to theft to gang warfare to senseless and opportunistic violence on whomever crosses their paths.

Burgess perfectly portrays young Alex as the iconic face of anti-establishment, the ultimate anarchist, the cock sured teenager with an answer for everything and not a jot of remorse for his actions and who they effect. The literary genius of Burgess now comes into play as the figure you feel you should revile, despise and hate throughout the books 200 or so pages very quickly becomes ‘your’ hero in the tale as he takes on the system in his determined battle to exercise his own thought and his freewill.

Ultimately, and not surprisingly caught out in his activities, the second and third parts all revolve around Alex’s time spent with the authorities – his gang of droogs having deserted him – and the innovative aversion therapy used to kerb his desires, triggered by the sounds of his beloved Wolfgang Amadeus.

Initially published with twenty-one chapters, the UK release of the book saw the omission of the final chapter in which Alex realises the error of his ways and ultimately that all he thought was right was wrong. Now available in either format the omission or inclusion of this concluding chapter has both its faults and merits, and that is ultimately a matter for the reader to decide.

What A Clockwork Orange in it’s literary form has done more than anything is to shape and influence all those who come into contact with it. Be it Warhol’s surreal adaptation or Kubrick’s iconic visualisation or the sensibilities of all youth cultures that followed, with its scripture of being accepted, of being part of the tribe and fervently adhering to the principles and uniform of whichever one you choose. Life choices that we all make in the bloom of our adolescence.

So, what’s it going to be then eh?

Publisher: Penguin; Re-issue edition (7 April 2011) ISBN-13: 978-0241951446 BUY HERE!

Absolute Beginners

nm_nov_2013_review_absolute_beginners

Absolute BeginnersColin MacInnes

Colin MacInnes’ Absolute Beginners is the book, more so than any other, which has stamped its place well and truly in the annals of modernist history. Though heavily referenced and recognised to this day, I am very surprised by the amount of people I meet who have never indulged in the pages of this landmark novel set in Soho (amongst other notable locations) in the summer of 1958 at the birth of the movement.

Like many, I was never eager to read the book myself – having seen the somewhat neon glow and wooden cinematic portrayal of the story starring David Bowie, Ray Davies and Patsy Kensit, amongst other celebrities of the early eighties. However, with my own tastes and styles edging more towards the late 50’s and modern jazz as a musical genre, thought it about time I did.

Arguably containing the first cultural reference to mod culture – describing young style obsessed, Modern-Jazz loving Brits with a passion for smoky clubs and coffee bars as ‘Modernists’ – Absolute Beginners is the tale of the nameless narrator and central character’s quest to living his life on his own terms. Striving to stay a step ahead of others in terms of wit, mentality and most of all, style. Whilst avoiding the pitfalls of the post-war adult generation that surrounds him, our narrator makes a living as a freelance photographer to the straight, the crooked and the seedy of London.

MacInnes captures the essence of the period detailing the birth of the ‘teenager’ and the struggles they face, which makes one realise that though times, politics, cultures and fashions have developed, Absolute Beginners is as relevant today as when it was first published.

Though not a book that is truly defined as having any great and gripping story, its main and central theme appears to be the narrator’s wish for us to view his life, his eclectic friends and aesthetic surroundings through his own eyes. The references to Jazz are many and one can sense the passion our narrator has for music – a theme that has stuck firm throughout the history of mod and its many incarnations and generations that followed.

Of what plot there is in Absolute Beginners is the peppering throughout of the narrators ongoing desire and attempts to rekindle his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Suzette, who is on the verge of entering into a marriage of convenience with her boss.

What is most striking and defining and ultimately special about the book however, is its portrayal and literary visualization of a piece of London’s past that has remained paramount to the foundations of a youth culture that has endured half a century. The snapshot created whilst reading of this now semi-mythical view of the smoky streets of Soho only serves to clarify the visions dreamt up in the mind of the birth of Mod, before its explosion into mass consciousness via the media in 1964 – a period of the movement that has been rarely captured on camera.

Though not filled with the kind of references one is so used to in a book with mod as it’s central subject, there can be no doubt that Absolute Beginners was not only a manuscript that detailed the birth of a movement from the eyes of a protagonist, but was, and has remained the original style guide for modernists for well over five decades.

‘College-boy smooth crop hair with burned in parting, neat white Italian rounded-collared shirt, short Roman jacket very tailored (two little vents, three buttons), no turn-up narrow trousers with 17-inch bottoms absolute maximum, pointed toe shoes and a white mac lying folded by his side.’

As a document that gave us everything else to come, Absolute Beginners has stayed the test of time for good reason. We should all own it.

Publisher: ALLISON & BUSBY (13 Jun 2011) ISBN-13: 978-0749009984
BUY HERE!


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Lord Savage

Bitten by the bug as a child in 1981 after being fed a mix of his fathers rock n'roll and his brothers 2 Tone records, David became involved in the Mod scene through a healthy diet of the revival, the Buzzcocks and Dexys Midnight Runners. Having first attended the Mousetrap in 1997 and spending time at both the New Untouchables and, the now defunct, Untouchables events he took a period of scene paternity leave in 2003 to rejoin again and find things as healthy, diverse and as vibrant as his obsession with hair straighteners. Now proud to be in the NUTs fold, David began working as the New Untouchables Social Media Manager in September 2012 and can generally be found chasing people around the depths of the Mousetrap with his dodgy pink camera. Crate digger, OCD hooverer, vintage shop raider, jazz listener, scooter tinkerer, wine drinker and cheese enthusiast. Sums it up nicely!

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November 13, 2013 By : Category : Front Page Literature Reviews Tags:, , , , , , , , ,
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