Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hank Jones on Al Haig

Henry "Hank" Jones (July 31, 1918 – May 16, 2010)

Hank Jones remembers his early Bop influences after leaving the Detroit area. He put a stress on the role of Al Haig in finding his own musical voice which was not a total departure from the Teddy Wilson tradition, but it was more a modern variation of that:

"When I first got to New York, one of the first groups I heard was the Dizzy Gillespie-Charlie Parker group. Al Haig was the pianist at the time: Now I understand that he and Bud Powell alternated with the group, as did Max Roach and Stan Levey on drums. But during the initial period when I first came to New York, Al Haig was the pianist.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Charles Mingus Quintet Meets Cat Anderson

In 1972, Charles Mingus undertook a European tour. It started in July, shortly after participating in Newport In New York Jazz Festival which put Mingus and Cat Anderson on the same stage together.

The Mingus Quintet for the first round of the European tour were Jon Faddis (tp) Charles McPherson (as) Bobby Jones (ts) John Foster (p) Charles Mingus (b) and Roy Brooks (d). They can be heard here, from a concert in the Netherlands.

The band in Nice, France, with guest star Dizzy Gillespie

After a series of concerts, which lasted until August, Jon Faddis and Charles McPherson left the band and Mingus had to form a new group for the second round of the European concerts, starting towards the end of the year in Germany, Poland and Spain. Gene Santoro (Myself when I am real: the life and music of Charles Mingus) reflects on Mingus's choices for his new quintet:

"He kept thinking about updating Harry Carney's baritone sound, the deep-toned Ellingtonian mix he'd always loved. A young baritone man recommended by Paul Jeffrey, Hamiet Bluiett, came down to the club and got the nod, along with trumpeter Joe Gardner. And Cat Anderson, Ellington's last high-note trumpeter, took a break from his intense schedule of studio work to hit the road. Bluiett doubled on clarinet, and could do the raucous, old-timey pieces Mingus always loved to play with loving parody, as living history tableaux. An avant-gardist with leanings toward blues and free form, Bluiett also felt the exuberant pull of traditional jazz from early New Orleans, like other free-jazz artists. Mingus was their avatar, overtly straddling jazz history from before Duke to after himself."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Herbie Hancock on Flexi Disc

It's as thin as a piece of paper and they call the Flexi Disc, also known as a Phonosheet or Soundsheet. According to Wikipedia it is "a phonograph record made of a thin, flexible vinyl sheet with a molded-in spiral stylus groove, and is designed to be playable on a normal phonograph turntable...It is used as a means to include sound with printed material such as magazines and music instruction books...and [it] was very popular among kids and teenagers and mass-produced by the state publisher in the Soviet government."

Found on the November 8, 1973 issue of Down Beat, Herbie Hancock Demonstrates The Rhodes Piano is a flexi disc (7") featured with the journal. A track from the disc can be heard here:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Count Basie at the Organ

I think it was John Hammond who once complained about one of the most stylish jazz pianists of all time being too shy to play piano. Of course, he was talking about Count Basie, the master of minimal (dubbed as economical) piano in the big band era. Still, I must say, comparing to Basie's organ recordings - which is the subject of this post- his piano work can be considered superabundant. Basie and organ is a beautiful but rare pairing.

Here, I'm trying to showcase his mastery at the organ from six 1952 sessions.

Before anything, I must return to some facts: Basie learned organ from Fats Waller and had a short career as the silent film accompanist. His first known recording at the organ dates back to 1939, when he accompanied Jimmy Rushing on Nobody Knows.

"Basie economized Fats' style," argues Geoff Alexander, "[he] had a sparse and 'jumping' feel to his playing, and I think influenced later organ players such as Wild Bill Davis, Milt Buckner, and Jackie Davis as much with the sound of his band as his playing."

From the early 1950s, when due to financial issues, the size of Basie orchestra drastically shrank, the small group became a favorite format. For these small group recordings, thanks to Norman Granz, Basie revisited organ almost a decade before it turned into a best-selling instrument. (In that regard think of Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff and many others who came to prominence in the 60s.)

In 1952, Basie took the organ seat on various occasions, some under his own name as leader, and with Oscar Peterson appointed as the piano man, and at least one session under Illinois Jacquet's name, when Basie was simply minding his own (glorious) business on the organ.

These sessions, at some point released by Verve as Basie at the Organ, are examples of Basie's "cool rage", if one borrows from the Jacquet's tune that Basie plays on the side B of the LP. By "cool rage" I mean, tense but flowing; conveying a wide range of emotions but always remaining in absolute control of itself.

The eleven tracks reissued on the VLP 9074 can be heard here:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Duke Ellington's Second Sacred

this picture is  from another performance of the second sacred concert

I think what I've gathered here, from various sources, is the closest thing to the original broadcast of the Second Sacred Concert in Sweden, unless one of you readers know more about the different versions of this legendary concert.

The concert was performed at the Gustaf Vasa Church of Stockholm, Sweden, on November 6, 1969. The original broadcast (presented here) opens with Meditation, follows by Almighty God Has Those Angels (feat. Alice Babs and Russell Procope), Shepherd Who Watches Over The Night Flock (feat. Cootie Williams), Heaven (feat. Babs and Johnny Hodges), and last but not least Freedom (feat. Babs and Tony Watkins).

It is in Freedom that Ellington shares Billy Strayhorn's principles of freedom with the audience, the principles his deceased collaborator lived with all through his short life. These four principles could be the essence of Ellington's Sacred Concerts, or at least the most "sacred" parts of them:

"Freedom from hate, unconditionally. Freedom from self-pity. Freedom from fear of possibly doing something that may help someone else more than it will him. Freedom from the kind of pride that could make a man feel he’s better than his brother."

Update: Alice Babs passed away on February 11, 2014. R.I.P.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Image of the Day: Duke Ellington and Hazel Scott

Hazel Scott and Duke Ellington. This is the picture in which the Duke's infamous scar, result of a razor cut by a jealous woman, is the most visible.