Thursday, December 30, 2010

Billy Taylor (1921-2010)

The year 2010 was a mournful year, as far as piano and last of the great pianist of golden age of jazz is concerned. First we lost Hank Jones, and now Dr. Bill Taylor.

First time I heard Billy Taylor, I was sneaking through my uncle's jazz collection. He had a personal compilation, kind of favorite traveler's mate, with a dozen track from 1954-55 Taylor/Earl May/Percy Brice sessions. Surely I fell in love with him. At that time I had two convincing reason to really dig him: 1) Practically he could play anything and anybody, from smoky ballads to up-tempo bebop pieces, from Basie-type swing manifestations to Ellington oriented tunes. 2) He reminded me of another unsung hero of jazz piano, Hank Jones. Hank is my yardstick for this instrument. Anything close to him, or feel like close to him, worth listener's attention. And of course, a sheer musical joy is always guaranteed.

Later, I returned to his early works (I wrote about it today, just before this post. Read it here) And then my expedition moved me forward to 1960s. At that point one of the best moments I had with Billy's music came with his gospely I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (1967), accompanied with bassist Ben Tucker and drummer Grady Tate.

Marc Myers in his obituary on Jazzwax defines Billy as "the jazz-musician stereotypes found in pulp fiction and film of the 1950s. He was gregarious and courtly, well-spoken and approachable—and oddly devoid of the simmering anger, anti-social behavior, bad habits and hipster persona that made the jazz life at once alluring and dangerous." Read the rest of his splendid piece, here.

Check this old post of a 1958 video of Billy Taylor, performing his own composition Early Bird with Tony Scott on clarinet, Doc Seversen on trumpet, Mundel Lowe on guitar, Jimmy Cleveland on trombone, Earl May on bass, and Ed Thigpen on drums. More videos are available here.

Classics 1137: Billy Taylor 1945-1949

Classics 1137
Billy Taylor 1945-1949 Release Date: 2000

Other notable musicians in this CD: Doc Cheatham, Denzil Best, Milton Hinton, Shadow Wilson.
Label(s): Savoy, Prestige, H.R.S, Swing 234
Number of sessions: 6

About this period: "When I first really embraced bop, it was—I had, of course, become aware of Parker and Gillespie, prior to coming to New York, but I was very much into Tatum and that kind of thing. I used to have some knock-down, drag-out arguments with Bud Powell, because I'd run into him frequently at Minton's and other places. This was in '44. I came here in '44, and when I got here I worked with Ben Webster at the Deuces, and the whole transition was really being formalized then because this was just prior to Dizzy Gillespie opening at the Onyx with the first bop band downtown." - Billy Taylor

The Album: A good example of what Billy Taylor calls pre-bop, a period of jazz which is not really swing, nor is bebop, but it had all of the ingredients that formalized by people like Clyde Hart, Sid Catlett, Jo Jones, and others. Of course, there are more swing oriented tracks (5 to 8, for instance), or more bop playing stuff (like Paris date), but the main concept is playing a variety of sounds with a great dexterity. - E. K.

Monk’s Mood (see below for details)


Billy Taylor Trio

Billy Taylor (p), Al Hall (b), Jimmy Crawford (d)
  • New York, March 20, 1945, Savoy
S-5792 Monk’s Mood
S-5793 Solace
S-5794 Night And Day
S-5795 Alexander’s Ragtime Band

Walter Thomas Orchestra:
Doc Cheatham (t), Eddie Barefield/Hilton Jefferson (cl,as), Walter ‘Toots’ Thomas/Teddy McRae (ts), Buddy Saffer (barsax), Billy Taylor (p), Milton Hinton (b), Specs Powell (d).
  • New York, June 27, 1945, Prestige
8131 -B Black Maria’s Blues
8132-B Bird Brain
8131-A Dee-Tees
8132-A Back Talk

Billy Taylor
Billy Taylor (p), Ted Sturgis (b), Buford Oliver(d).
  • Paris, December 4, 1946, Swing 234
OSW-435-1 The Very Thought Of You
OSW-436-1 Stridin’ Down Champs-Elysées (sic)

Billy Taylor Quartet:
Billy Taylor (p), John Collins (g), J0hn Levy (b), Denzil Best (d).
  • New York, June 1947, H.R.S
1068-2 Well Taylor-ed
1069-2 I Don't Ask Questions, I just Have Fun
1070-3 So You Think You’re Cute
1071 -2 Twinkle Toes

Billy Taylor Quartet:
Billy Taylor (p), Herman Mitchell (g), J0hn Levy (b), Denzil Best (d).
  • New York, September 26 1947, H.R.S
1084-2 Restricted
1085-3 Stridin’ Down Champs-Elysées
1086-2 Mitch’s Pitch
1087-2 Mr. B. Bops

Billy Taylor Quintet:
John Hardee (ts), Milt Page (org), Billy Taylor (p), John Simmons (b), Shadow Wilson (d).
  • New York, November 20 1949, Savoy
SBT-4450 Misty Moming Blues
SBT-4451 The Bug
SBT-4452 Prelude To A Kiss
SBT-4453 Take The “A” Train

Monday, December 20, 2010

Minstrel Boys: Dylan & The Band at Isle of Wight

While joyously reading the detailed analysis of Bob Dylan and The Band's Basement Tapes, from the pen of Sid Griffin (Million Dollar Bash, Jawbone press), I found this histrorically important video of Dylan/Band, from their Isle of Wight appearence, on Sunday, August 31, 1969.

According to Google video's note, this amazing footage is all that we have of Dylan’s performance that day, and features the following tracks: The Weight (only The Band), I Threw It All Away, Highway 61 Revisited, One Too Many Mornings, I Pity The Poor Immigrant, Minstrel Boy (only the beginning of the song. Complete take on Self Portrait, 1970). Rumor has it that this black and white footage was shot by a friend of John Lennon’s who sat between him and Yoko at the foot of the stage. Later, Lennon damned with faint praise when asked by the press to defend Dylan’s brief performance (an hour was brief granted that the audience, though not of course John Lennon, had been sitting in the mud for three days to await it). Lennon allegedly told the Daily Express: "He gave a reasonable, albeit slightly flat, performance, but everyone was expecting Godot, a Jesus, to appear."

The video rounds off with remarkable footage of The Band live at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh in November 1970, shot in color, bur very amateurishly, for Dutch television. Songs including: Time To Kill, The Weight, This Wheel’s On Fire and Up On Cripple Creek.

By the way, recently, Neil Young under the direction of Garth Hudson made an excellent recording of This Wheel’s On Fire which can be found in the album Canadian Celebration of the Band. This Neil Young interpretation significantly came out just a week after a fire destroyed his garage and he lost many of his beloved things and archival materials.

[December 21 UPDATE]

I noticed that Neil Young's new album, Le Noise is among Rolling Stone's 30 best records of the 2010. Though I didn't really like it, it's a good news. Le Noise is composed of eight new songs and no band. Neil is, accompanying himself on guitars with maximum fuzz and electronics, manipulated by producer Daniel Lanois. Rolling Stone writer, David Fricke, gives this four stars (out of five) and writes:

"The most personal thing about Le Noise is the sense of a restless master caught in the pursuit of ideas, shaping their expression. In Love and War, Young — his creaky whisper and acoustic guitar buoyed by Lanois' watery treatments — confesses an uncertainty hard to believe in one of rock's most driven stars: "When I sing about love and war/I don't really know what I'm saying." But then the conviction comes back. He only has that one way forward, through the music: "I sang in anger, hit another bad chord/But I still try to sing about love and war." Le Noise is, ultimately, an extreme simplicity: the sound of a man who won't give up."

[Second UPDATE, same day]
A funny video. Neil Young reveals that the fashion world never really understood him.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Trinke Tinkle, Vol.2: The Party's Over

In memory of Hank Jones
“It has to swing or seem to swing. It has to contain the element of surprise, and it has to embody the eternal search for the blues.” These are John Lewis’s words, his interpretation of what we call jazz.
This is my second compilation of jazz tunes for readers of this blog, especially those who did bear with me during the year 2010, which is now vanishing very fast.
All these tracks swing or seem to swing. They contain elements of surprise and the eternal search for the blues is always on (the volume one is still here). Yes, 2010 party is almost over and this a Christmas present. A small shot, after a 12-month long hangover.
دومين مجموعه قابل دانلود از 12 قطعه برگزيده جاز، به ياد هنك جونز. اگر علاقه‌اي به قسمت اول آن داشتيد بايد اين‌جا سراغش را بگيريد. مشخصات قطعات علاوه بر همين جا، در پوشه فشرده شده آلبوم وجود دارد.

Good Morning Heartache
Ray Bryant
From the album: Here's Ray Bryant
January 10 or 12, 1976/Pablo/New York
• Ray Bryant (p)/George Duvivier (b)/Grady Tate (d).

When Your Lover Has Gone
Wild Bill Davis
From the album: All Right, OK, You Win
January 21 or 22, 1976/Black & Blue/Paris
• Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis (ts)/ Wild Bill Davis (org)/Billy Butler (g)/ Oliver Jackson (d).

Count Basie & His Orchestra
From the album: Basie in London
September 7, 1956 /Verve/Gothenburg, Sweden
• Reunald Jones (t), Thad Jones (t),Joe Newman (t),Wendall Culley (t)/ Benny Powell (tb),Henry Coker (tb),Matthew Gee (tb)/Marshall Royal (as)/ Frank Wess (as)/Frank Foster (ts)/Charlie Fowlkes (bs)/ Count Basie (p)/ Freddie Green (g)/ Eddie Jones (b)/ Sonny Payne(d).

I Love the Rhythm in a Riff
Red Rodney
From the album: Modern Music from Chicago
Probably June 20, 1955/Fantasy/New York
• Red Rodney (t, voc)/Jimmy Ford (as)/Ira Sullivan (ts)/Norman Simons (p)/Victor Sproles (b)/Roy Haynes (d)

Strong Man
Abbey Lincoln
From the album: That's Him!
October 28, 1957/Riverside/N.Y.C
• Kenny Dorham (t)/ Sonny Rollins (ts)/Paul Chambers (b)/Max Roach (d)/Abbey Lincoln (voc).

Kary's Trance
Lee Konitz
From the album: Lee Konitz Inside Hi-Fi
October 16, 1956/Atlantic/Hackensack, New Jersey
• Lee Konitz (as), Billy Bauer (g), Arnold Fishkind (b), Dick Scott (d).

Pennies from Heaven
Big Joe Turner
From the album: In the Evening
March 10, 1976/Pablo/probably New York
• Bob Smith (as)/J.D. Nicholson (P)/Herman Bennett (g), Pee Wee Crayton (g)/Winston McGregor (b)/Charles Randall (d)

Minha (All Mine)
Bill Evans
From the album: Köln Concert 1976
Jun 9, 1976/Gambit/Köln, Germany
• Bill Evans (p)/Eddie Gomez (b)/ Eliot Zigmund (d).

Sonny's Blues
Sonny Criss
From the album: Live In Italy
January 28, 1974/Fresh Sound/Bologna, Italy
• Sonny Criss (as)/Georges Arvanitas (p)/Jacki Samson (b)/Charles Saudrais (d).

James Moody
From the album: Hi-Fi Party
August 23 or 24, 1955/Press/New York
• Dave Burns (t)/William Shepherd (tb)/Pee Wee Moore (bs)/Jimmy Boyd (p)/ John Lathan (b)/ Clarence Johnson (d)/Eddie Jefferson (voc).

The Party's Over
Aaron Bell
From the album: After the Party's Over
June 20, 1958/RCA/New York City
• Hank Jones (p)/Aaron Bell (b)/Ed Thigpen (d).

Tomorrow Night
Lonnie Johnson
From the album: Blues & Rhythm Classics 5189
December 1947/King/Cincinnati
John Huughes (p)/Roy Coulter (b)/Lonnie Johnson (g, voc)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Remembering Eddie Lang

Remembering one of the fathers of jazz guitar,
Eddie Lang

Up to three years ago I hardly knew anything about Eddie Lang. I think it was a Reading-based guitarist who drew my attention to the man whose real name was Salvatore Massaro.

Lang was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 25 1902. His father was a violin and guitar maker and under his influence Eddie picked up a string instrument. He received tuition on violin as a kid and attended the same school with fellow fiddler Joe Venuti. The two became close friends and often worked together later on. (I have some tapes from this collaboration.)

Eddie Lang played violin with a local band and on banjo towards the end of World War I. He was already playing guitar at that time but switched between instruments until the mid-twenties. After a string of shorter engagements, Lang joined the Mound City Blue Blowers in 1924 and visited London with this group. From 1925 onwards, Lang played guitar with numerous quite different bands of all genres and sizes. In 1926 he teamed up with his buddy Joe Venuti again. The two joined Roger Wolfe Kahn's Society Band which played in a style that had little in common with the music Lang recorded under is own name. His most fascinating records were made along side blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson. However, racial segregation prevented this incredible duo from performing in public.