Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pictorial Discography of Blues & Rhythm Classics

One of the most popular posts on this blog has been the discography of Blues & Rhythm Series of the defunct French label Classics (aka Chronological Classics). This is a follow-up to that post, while the information about the label and its discography still can be accessed here.

Going through these names, images and dates is like discovering a new continent in music. Although the focus of this blog has been mostly jazz, this collection is absolutely essential in understanding many developments in jazz since the 1950s. In addition to that, some of these artists later ventured into more straight jazz framework and produced a good body of work (Bill Doggett, Rusty Bryant, Tiny Grimes, etc.)

A detailed discography of these sessions would unveil even more prominent jazz names as the sidemen. My own introduction to the series was with Big Maybelle which completely blew me away. Still hardly a surprise as I learned that Hot Lips Page was among the musicians! Or for instance, if you've followed this blog, last month I mentioned another memorable collection from this label (by Joe Morris) on which one can listen to early Johnny Griffin, Elmo Hope, Percy Heath and Philly Joe Jones in one session. 

In brief, there are more great names hidden beneath the smiling and neatly dressed folks on the cover.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Illinois Jacquet Big Band feat. Clark Terry

This post features the third and last part of the Illinois Jacquet Big Band in Bern, Switzerland. The first two parts can be accessed here and here.

For the final number, One O'Clock Jump, Clark Terry joins the stage whose asociation with Jacquet goes back to the late 1940s. Later, in various occasions, they were also both hired by Norman Granz for the legendary jam session concerts. On record, they both play in Newport in New York 1972, and then two decades later as members of George Wein And The Newport All Stars. Finally, in 2004, when Jacquet passed away, CT paid his last tribute to the old time collaborator by playing in his memorial service.

Now the music:

One O'Clock Jump (soloists: Richard Wyands, Clark Terry, Wyands, Jacquet, trombone?, Arthur Daniels, Terry, Fred Hunter, Winston Byrd)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

LJF's Essentially Ellington

These two photographs, taken from last night's Essentially Ellington concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, show the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, directed by Tommy Smith, in their evening opening set. Played as a part of the London Jazz Festival (now EFG LFJ), SNJO's reproduction of the Ellington repertoire is based on their album In the Spirit of Duke. The festival booklet reads: "Director Tommy Smith sets out to give audiences as close to the real-deal Ellington experience as possible. The music spans most of Ellington's career, including Black and Tan Fantasy, Daybreak Express, Rockin' In Rhythm and a ravishing tenor-piano duet of The Single Petal of a Rose.  As well as movements from The Queen's Suite, it features extracts from Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's re-interpretation of Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite." 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Hawk Talks

Two interviews with Coleman Hawkins, posted on the occasion of his 109th birthday anniversary.

The English Interview:

Coleman Hawkins, in London (circa 1960), talks about tenor saxophone, Fletcher Henderson, Fats Waller (bringing him his 'breakfast' which was a glass full of scotch), Body & Soul (recorded in "just one take...Boom!!") and some other things.

Duke in the USSR

Jam Session in the U.S.S.R. Duke playing balalaika. source
The first time I saw Dr. Harvey G. Cohen was in one of his King’s College London lectures about Duke Ellington's America (politics of race), also the title of his Ellington book. Later, I contacted him about the State Department tour of 1963 which I mused about here and hopefully, I'm going to meet Mr. Cohen again to hear his take on this tour for which I'm making a short film.

However, today I mentioned Mr. Cohen for a slightly different reason, or for a different "trip". I just learned that he's authored a long essay on Ellington's second tour of the East which shares many of the socio-political contexts of the first one. Originally published on the journal of Popular Music as Visions of Freedom: Duke Ellington in the Soviet Union (2011), the essay explains the Ellington's second State Department sponsored tour. Mr. Cohen, in the abstract to the paper, writes:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Style of Duke Ellington

In August 2013, when the Los Angeles Times published Mimi Melnick's obituary, I didn't catch that she was the same Mimi Clar I knew for her jazz writing, especially for her study of Ellington's style which was published in the Jazz Review journal of 1959.

In The Style of Duke Ellington Clar starts her argument by focusing on the problem of defining Ellington's style quoting André Previn who has said: "Stan Kenton can stand in front of a thousand fiddles and a thousand brass and make a dramatic gesture and every studio stranger can nod his head and say, 'Oh, yes, that's done like this, but Duke merely lifts his finger, three horns make a sound, and I don't know what it is!"

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Illinois Jacquet Big Band, Part II

This is the second part of the Illinois Jacquet Big Band video I posted in late October (here). I haven't been able to identify the members of the trombone section yet. In addition to that, the set is still incomplete and one last part which features a fantastic finale is on the way. The pieces performed are listed below with the name of those soloists I was aware of.

00:00  Doggin' Around (soloists: Joey "G-Clef" Cavaseno, Jacquet, James Zollar, Winston Byrd, Tom Olin, Richard Wyands, Cavaseno, Mike Grey?, 2nd trombone?, 3nd trombone?, Fred Hunter)
09:40  The Sunny Side of the Street (sax solo, vocal and dance: Jacquet)
16:46  Flying Home (soloists: Cavaseno, Jacquet)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Jazz Mirrors Iran#9: Persian Village

Postscript January 6, 2016: "Paul Bley, a jazz pianist whose thoughtful but intuitive commitment to advanced improvisation became widely influential, died of natural causes Sunday. He was 83."

What I hear in jazz takes on Persia, aka Iran, is like Montesquieu's Persian Letters in reverse. If Persian Letters was composed of letters exchanged between two imaginary Persian noblemen traveling in Europe, jazz pieces about Persia are like composers' and musicians' mind journeys in Persia. As Montesquieu would say, you might find in jazz compositions about Iran "a sort of romance, without having expected it."

In the Jazz Mirrors Iran series, several different musicians and pieces introduced and they were all connected together by a sort of a chain. The chain was Persia, a dream land where even the traffic can be (pictured) as harmonious. (see Gulda)

Back to Montesquieu's concept of an imaginary encounter between east (Iran) and west (Europe), the author talks about how the travelers (in this case, musicians) were struck with the marvellous and extraordinary, each in his own style. "Reasoning cannot be intermixed with the story," remarks Montesquieu, "because the personages not being brought together to reason." Therefore, Fats Waller's Persian Rug or Lloyd Miller's Pari Ruu are always "connected with a manifestation of surprise, or astonishment, and not with the idea of inquiry, much less with that of criticism." That is the Iran I hear and see in jazz.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stars of Bethlehem: A Pictorial Discography of the 1000 Series

For me, Bethlehem Records is one of those inexplicable moments in jazz history. Its founder wasn't particularly interested in jazz, as for instance Norman Granz was, nevertheless he produced one of the most coherent bodies of work in jazz history. He gave his musicians and technicians enough freedom in recording which undoubtedly manifest itself on what we hear on records today.

Bethlehem is also the house of stylist vocalists and more than that the house of the bass. Some of the best early small combo sessions led by bassists were presented by the label, among which Oscar Pettiford, Milt Hinton, Charles Mingus and Red Mitchell stand out. This is of course way before experimental labels such as ECM and the sheer audacity of Bethlehem owner was largely missing among major labels of the period. No wonder, the label proved to be financially ruinous for its founder Gus Wildi.

The company originally started in 1953 as a pop music venue, but the failure in promoting its records forced Wildi to retreat to the less competitive field of jazz. They released 38 ten-inch LP records and then in 1955 changed over to 12-inch format. Bethlehem enjoyed presenting many great names in their catalogue, none of whom had long term contract with the label which in the process made it difficult for the financial survival of the label. In 1962, the company was sold to King Records who didn't properly taken care of the back catalogue and because of that, and some other sales, for years, the Bethlehem jazz albums remained scarce items.

What I've gathered here is the cover artworks of the 1000 series which was released on 10-inch LPs. The number ends in 40, but in reality only 38 records were released and number 38 and 39 were never issued.

© Katherine Holzman
What is so fascinating about these covers is their design, mostly the result of the relentless creativity of Burt Goldblatt [pic on the right] whose graphic concepts helped to revolutionize the jazz covers of the 50s.

About why Goldblatt was hired by the company, Mr Wildi told Tyler Alpern: "We recognized from our first 10 inch album release on, that the importance of the quality of the cover was underrated by the other companies. I believe then that Bethlehem was the first company to create covers with some artistic merit as opposed to use them akin to soap or soup advertisements. The covers were heavily laminated, wrapped around, and minimal type was used, giving off a feeling of quality and substance."

Burt Goldblatt, in his atelier, used photography, painting and drawing to achieve whatever effect he was looking for, effects and moods that were evoked by listening to the album itself and even being present at the recording session with his Hasselblad. His visual motives and themes were deserted streets, instruments in still life compositions, super large colour typeface, noirish images, low-angle shots, nature, solitude and animals with a special attention to owls. He also "eliminated long lists of song titles, one of the medium’s more obtrusive conventions," as he told the New York Time.

Goldblatt was constantly innovative and bound to try new methods of creating character for the record, as for Charlie Marioano Sextet (see blow) he X-rayed a saxophone and used it for the cover art.

This gallery, in order of release, is only composed of 1000 series (10'' LP). Some of them are UK editions, released by London Records, but the cover artwork is always the same as the original.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

VHS Diaries#1: Ellis Marsalis Trio

Syndrome was the name of a composition by New Orleans pianist and father to Wynton and Brandford Marsalis, Mr. Ellis Marsalis.  Syndrome first appeared on one of his early albums, if not the first.

Here, with the assistance of a relaxed, grooving trio he performs the same song at the Bern Jazz Festival, 1997. I couldn't identify the bassist and drummer. If you know their name, please update me.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ad-Lib#5: Two Faces of Johnny Griffin

© photograph: Yukio Ichikawa
The line-up on some of the old 78 rpm records are truly amazing. For instance, teaming up Johnny Griffin, Elmo Hope, Percy Heath and Philly Joe Jones on one single record may sound like a fantasy modern group, but in reality it happened in the late 1940s, though the encounter is not as jazzy as one expects.

The name of Joe Morris (1922-58) hardly rings a bell today. However, those familiar with the big bands of Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich and Dizzy Gillespie will recognize this trumpet player who after some busy years in big bands led his own usually loud combos, playing rhythm and blues charts. It is in one of these small combos that the little giant of tenor sax, Johnny Griffin, is presented at the age of 19.

Did Griffin pick up something from his demanded rough, bluesy, riff-based performance here for his future's distinctive style? It's hard to think he didn't.