Friday, November 18, 2011

Getz/Burton/Swallow/Haynes Revisited

"We are very happy to be in this wonderful London town [audience laughs]...what are you laughing at, I mean it! Especially after being all over the world and trying to speak languages you don't speak, it's good to speak my American English."  -- Stan Getz

Isn't it marvelous that after 50 years two of the gentlemen in this video from 1965 (or 1966) are playing in London again within a week. This is an episode from Jazz Goes to College TV programme, a phrase probably coined by Dave Brubeck as an attempt to take jazz to smaller, more intellectual, or more "hip" venues. (another jazzy coincidence: Brubeck family played at Ronnie Scott's last week and I managed to have a chat about Iran and middle east with wonderful Darius Brubeck!) In this show recorded at London School of Economics (it's good for students to learn how play economical!), master of tenor sax, Stan Getz, is playing with his quartet consisted of Gary Burton, vibes, Steve Swallow, bass, and Roy Haynes on drums. The rhythm section, Swallow and Haynes are now swinging in London again, though in a slightly different direction.

Last Sunday at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Swallow and his quintet played new original tunes by Swallow. It was an amazing evening. He had a story, a text. And he had textures and colors to illustrate his story in sound. Most of the gigs that I've attended in last 10 days had good numbers, beautiful solos, unforgettable passages, but as an overall act, as a gig -like a film played in a cinema from beginning to end - they lacked that inner line of storytelling, that basic concept that puts the whole thing together and gives the performance a sense of unity. Swallow and his amazingly melodic electric bass guitar did this. He created a cheerful drama

For instance, he played three originals which drove from his passion for detective novels. "I don't read a book in which nobody gets killed in the first chapter," Swallow said. The light noir mood of these tunes were something that one has to add to the growing influence of noir heritage in popular culture and other forms of art.

Carla Bley, Swallow's life-long partner on keyboard, was as stylish as ever. Providing dark and somehow humorous plates of warm colors with her Hammond B3, she reminded me of Ida Lupino, a film noir femme fatale, playing piano in Roadhouse (1948) and putting her cigarettes on the instrument, an iconic image of noir world. Significantly she wrote the piece Ida Lupino and we can hear it in his then-husband Paul Bley's records , as well as her owns.

To see and hear how Swallow can knock out the audience by what he plays on his bass, this could be a good description: sometimes, especially in duos, he was playing the lead melody and Steve Cardenas, the guitar player, was his rhythm section. The best kind of jazz I know is when rhythm section comes to foreground and show the power of beats, rhythms, stops amd whatever make jazz music so vibrant and moving, and then slowly and modestly goes back to the background and allows the front line to take off again.

Let's not forget Chris Cheek who was playing mellow and humming tenor sax in a very laid back mood which reminds us of Stan Getz in one of his after-hour moods.

I'm looking forward to see Mr Haynes this evening, while invite you all to watch this excellent concert of Stan Getz Quartet with Burton, Swallow and Haynes.

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